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Court shouldn’t drop other shoe

October 16, 2010

October 16, 2010

Will the other shoe fall when it comes to campaign financing? Americans are going to find out.

The Supreme Court’s infamous Citizens United case paved the way for corporations and unions to dump millions upon millions of dollars into elections. Now there is a case before the court that would clear the way of limits on campaign contributions from individuals. The court’s answer here should be to pay attention to previous challenges that have failed and see the limits as a means of curtailing undue influence on elected officials.

The case before the Supreme Court is McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission. Here, Shaun McCutcheon, a wealthy Birmingham, Ala., businessman has been joined by the Republican National Committee to challenge aggregate caps on contributions to candidates and committees. Their aim is to whack the 1976 Supreme Court decision that upheld the federal limits on the grounds that government could limit the size of donations directly to candidates to prevent “corruption or its appearance.” McCutcheon argues the opposite. Removing the limits, he says, “... will fight political corruption by having the freedom to spend on more candidates whom we support with more competition in the process. Good candidates who aren’t rich can raise more money and challenge entrenched insiders.”

And as one might expect, he also sees the limits as an infringement on free speech rights.

“The message that I am taking to the Supreme Court is therefore a simple one,” McCutcheon wrote in a column that appeared on the Politico website. “Getting rid of aggregate limits is not about corrupting democracy — it is about practicing democracy and being free.”

We don’t see the existing limits where one person can give $2,500 per election to a federal candidate, $30,800 per year to national party committees and $5,000 per year to other federal committees or the aggregate cap of $123,000 per election cycle as stifling one’s free speech.

The influx of more money into the political arena is not going to fix what ails our system, rather it will offer just more opportunities for influence peddling. A candidate who receives large donations from a particular individual may not be in their pocket, but one can bet they will be on speed dial.

Lifting these limits will only compound the problem. Let’s hope the court sees this.

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