In January of 2010, in the case of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the Supreme court ruled that portions of the McCain-Feingold act (BCRA) along with the Michigan Campaign Finance Act and one other court ruling were unconstitutional, in that they restricted political expenditures by corporations.
In an upcoming case, the Supreme court will decide in the case McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission whether individual caps on contributions are constitutional. The current caps that exist state that an individual may not give more than $46,200 to federal candidates over a 2 year period and that individuals may not give more than $70,800 to other political entities , such as national and local political parties and non party committees, such as 501(c)(4) organizations.
The CEO of Coalmont Electrical Development Co., a man named Shaun McCutcheon, wanted to give over a 2 year period according to the Reuters story a total of $55,500 but was not allowed to because of the legal restrictions placed on individuals by federal law. The story goes on to state that the rationale for the legal challenge, as delineated by Mr. McCutcheon and the RNC’s counsel in this case, James Bopp,is as follows: Federal limits on individual donations force those that want to give more to go outside the system and give to superpacs rather than to the candidates they wold prefer to give to.
I want you to look closely at that last sentence. While not Mr. Bopps words (to read them go to the Links page for the link to read them yourself) they accurately speak what Mr. Bopp said.
When I roll that thought around my head, I am greatly dismayed by what I see. In large part because it would give wealthy people a more direct route to the halls of power than they already have. And they already have a huge advantage over the poor in this nation.
If the court agrees with McCutcheon here what will happen to the electoral process? I am not sure. The man, McCutcheon says he only wanted to give a few thousand dollars more than the legal limit. But the court is not restricted by the wants or needs of that one individual. The worst case scenario, and the one I think both parties, Democratic and Republican alike are rooting for is to completely do away with individual limits.
The legal challenge to the law does NOT seek to amend the number of dollars that individuals may give. What it seeks to do is completely wipe the law off of the books and make the specific portion of law that limits individuals contributions unconstitutional.
The rub here is simple. If McCutcheon wins this case what is bad now about campaign finance will become worse. If he wins, then millionaires and billionaires will, until new legislation is passed, be able to buy elections lock, stock and barrel.
And will we be able to fix this should the system break this way and take power from the people? Let me put it this way; Have we been able to fix the damage done by Citizens United in the courts and Congress?
About that much.
So the answer is simple.
And who gets pinched out of the scene there? The little guy. This would be yet another blow to freedom for the poor and disenfranchised in this nation. We will become even more than we are now a nation where money is speech.
And if money is speech, does that not make poverty silence? How can people like us, the millions who live paycheck to paycheck, keep up?
We won’t be able to.
And there isn’t a damn thing we can do about it.
Hope they don’t do it, we can only wait until the Supreme Court decides this in the next session, which begins in October.
Have a nice day.