But only really, really rich people. Those who are simply really rich, like Apatow, should be free to donate what they please.
At least, that’s my takeaway from this conversation he and Jonah Goldberg had on Twitter last night. Here was Apatow:
@jonahnro when one man‘s voice can be a billion times louder than another’s then money has trumped everything.Founding fathers didn’t knowTV
— Judd Apatow (@JuddApatow) August 24, 2012
And here was Jonah:
@juddapatow If you say billionaire X can’t run political ads, why can’t I say magazine Y or studio z can’t offer political content?
— Jonah Goldberg (@JonahNRO) August 24, 2012
For what it’s worth, here was me:
— Sonny Bunch (@SonnyBunch) August 24, 2012
All snark aside, to me this is a pretty clear-cut issue: The First Amendment clearly states that “Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech.” This is a foundational idea in our democracy, one that we should fight to protect at all costs—especially when it comes to political speech, the kind of speech our founders held most sacred. It’s not one that we should sell out bits and pieces at a time. The First Amendment doesn’t say “Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech, except when it’s 30 days before a primary or 60 days before a general election.” The First Amendment doesn’t say “Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech, except for billionaires who wish to opine on politics.” The First Amendment doesn’t say “Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech, except when unions wish to spend $4 billion influencing state, local, and federal elections.” The founding fathers may not have known TV, as Apatow states. But they certainly understood the danger of the government telling the people what they can and cannot say about our political system.
Would Apatow feel comfortable living in a world in which the government said The Campaign can’t be shown in theaters because it’s clearly a ridiculously expensive piece of issue advocacy? Would he feel comfortable living in a world in which the government threatened to fine or imprison anyone who had shown Fahrenheit 9/11 in 2004 because it’s an obvious piece of partisan hackery designed to influence the presidential election? Corporations worth hundreds of millions of dollars should be banned from influencing elections…so we will forbid the New Yorker from running editorials in favor of one candidate or the other?
I think the whole conversation is kind of funny and kind of sad, insofar as Judd Apatow is a smart guy who really, truly believes that money is a corrupting influence in politics but can only talk about the subject in broad, talking-point-style platitudes and he has no compunction donating tons and tons of money to politicians he admires/supports. Since 2008, Judd Apatow has donated $63,100 to the Obama Victory Fund, the DCCC, and Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign. His wife, Leslie Mann-Apatow, has given another $17,700 since 2010. In other words, between the two of them, they have donated more than $80,000 to Democrats—or 60 percent more than the United States median household income of $49,445. If you’re going to talk about the problem of big money influencing politics, you might want to have just a smidgen of self-awareness.