Vote ‘No’ on Initiative 735

Money is crucial for any political race in this country – our system of government is based on the making of money for one’s own interests.

Washington State’s initiative 735 (I-735) is a push to strip the right of corporations to use their money as free speech.

The initiative is in response to the 2010 Supreme Court case Citizens United, which protected the right of corporations to unlimitedly fund political broadcasts during election seasons.

If enacted, I-735 would aid in removing the voices of corporations in politics – despite the fact that they can be severely impacted by elected candidates.

Travis Ridout, professor of government and public policy in the WSU School of Politics, Philosophy and Public Affairs, offered his take on the initiative.

“One argument in favor of more money in politics is that it can be used to inform voters about the candidates they are voting for,” Ridout said. “It takes a lot of money for a challenger to have a decent shot of beating an incumbent.”

Completely eliminating the voices of corporations in particular is bad for the economy. Many people don’t consider how the policies being presented by candidates can affect the revenue that businesses can bring in.

In our society, it shouldn’t be considered odd for money to be a form of speech. In theory, everyone that has money has earned it is some way and, therefore, how they decide to spend it will be aligned with what issues they support.

“Others argue that money is a form of expression and that candidates who benefit from a lot of money are those more desired by donors,” Ridout said.

One of the arguments in favor of this bill is that money is property and not speech. This makes sense in some ways, but there really isn’t a distinction between the two; the same could be said that a sign is not speech either because it didn’t come out of someone’s mouth. That argument is effectively comparing apples to oranges, as property and speech aren’t mutually exclusive.

“Clearly, not everyone has access to equal resources, and so there is a concern that the wishes of the rich are represented by our elected officials, not the voices of the poor—or even the middle class,” Ridout said. “There are also concerns about transparency—that citizens should have the right to know who is giving money to whom.”

These are valid concerns; and, unfortunately, these are the reality in some cases. But there are checks in place to prevent those situations from completely taking over.

For example, there is a maximum campaign contribution per person of $2,700 to each federal candidate per election, and a maximum political action committee contribution of $5000 per calendar year, according to the Federal Election Commission.

“Some worry that overturning Citizens United, so to speak, could infringe on the free-speech rights of individuals and corporations,” Ridout said. “In truth, the initiative is unlikely to have any real impact on money in politics because it is very difficult to amend the Constitution; and wealthy individuals, not corporations, are responsible for a lot of the huge checks that fund campaigns.”

Ultimately, a yes vote for initiative 735 will be inconsequential because its only urges our congressional representatives to make a recommendation to amend the constitution, not actually amend it.

Regardless, corporations are just as likely to be impacted by an election as citizens are, and in that way, it is unfair to restrict their political speech.

Editor’s note: This column is part of a head-to-head series. Read the other side here.

Alexander Davis is a freshman neuroscience major from Kennewick. He can be contacted at 335-2290 or by opinion@dailyevergreen.com. The opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of the staff of The Daily Evergreen or those of The Office of Student Media.