From the Times: A federal appeals court has upheld Alaska's curbs on soft-money political donations to candidates for state office, holding that the State Legislature had a right to enact the restrictions in 1996 to restore the public's faith in government. The 3-to-0 ruling on Tuesday by a panel of the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, sitting in Seattle, overturned a federal district court that had found the curbs unconstitutional. The latest ruling comes as the United States Supreme Court prepares to hear arguments on Sept. 8 on the McCain-Feingold law barring political parties from raising soft money for federal candidates. Glad to see this court reject the twisted conception of political bribery as protected speech. I once had a classmate suggest to me that a laissez-faire campaign finance system was democratic because the winner was the candidate who the most people wanted in office - this echoes Ari Fleischer's take on Bush's fundraising a few months back. Someone should remind the Bush administration that we already have - in theory - a system for figuring out whom the most people would like to see elected: the vote. And ideally, everyone gets the same number of those. There are some troubling provisions in McCain-Feingold regulating speech (i.e., not money) in the period before elections, deserving of critical review, but I'm yet to understand on what grounds my donating money to every viable candidate in understood exchange for largesse in office is protected symbolic speech but my paying money to a prostitute for sex or a dealer for drugs is not. That said, McCain-Feingold remains a largely ineffective (and sometimes - as in the case of the doubled individual contribution limit - dangerously counterproductive) stab at the problem. Bruce Ackerman and Ian Ayres suggest one alternative here.

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