If you weren’t recently rescued from a deserted island, you’re probably aware of role money plays in polluting our democracy, and the fact that its corrupting influence reaches issues related to energy policy and environmental protection. We even devoted an entire issue of The Appalachian Voice to the subject in 2012.
So anyone passionate about, well, anything really, should take note of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling today on McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, a case that’s being called “the sequel to Citizens United.” Here are some of the best things we read today related to the case. But first, watch this video from last October that correctly predicts the case’s outcome:
Mother Jones has a good overview of the case and how it relates to other campaign finance laws left intact after today’s ruling. From the article:
The court’s five conservative justices all agreed that the so-called aggregate limit on the amount of money a donor can give to candidates, political action committees, and political parties is unconstitutional. In a separate opinion, conservative justice Clarence Thomas went even further, calling on the court to overrule Buckley v. Valeo, the 1976 decision that concluded it was constitutional to limit contributions to candidates.
That piece also includes this strongly worded, and frankly terrifying, quote from the dissenting opinion by the court’s four liberal justices:
“Taken together with Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, today’s decision eviscerates our Nation’s campaign finance laws, leaving a remnant incapable of dealing with the grave problems of democratic legitimacy that those laws were intended to resolve.”
For a brief explanation of what specific limits existed before today’s ruling and why those limits exist in the first place (i.e. preventing the corruption that’s happening anyway) take a look at this piece from The Washington Post written when the Supreme Court decided to hear the case. Also in The Post, Richard Hansen, a professor of law and political science, made the argument last month that blowing up aggregate limits could reduce the role outside money plays and “grease the wheels toward compromise” by strengthening party leadership.
Regardless of having a teensy chance to reduce gridlock, the McCutcheon ruling could rule out any hope for a functioning campaign finance system. ThinkProgress fears a future where donations to Republican or Democratic strongholds could be strategically redistributed to battleground states.
On the other hand, the Sierra Club says that while the Supreme Court sided with polluters and against the vast majority of Americans, the situation is far from hopeless.
In a recent poll by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, results showed 91 percent of respondents want elected officials to “reduce the influence of money in political elections.” Grassroots movements are emerging calling for public financing that levels the playing field and lifts up the voices of small donors. More and more Americans are demanding initiatives that pull back the curtain on political spending.
So what’s likely to happen next? The midterm elections are right around the corner, and rumored candidates come the 2016 presidential election are already testing the waters. Last fall, The Sunlight Foundation shared a fascinating look at the 1,000 donors most likely to benefit from McCutcheon and what they’ll probably do:
Our best guess is that parties and leadership committees will converge on these donors, giving roughly 1000 people a unique ability to set and limit the party agendas. Presumably, they will shift their money from super PACs to party committees because giving directly to party and leadership committees affords these donors more opportunities to talk directly to party leaders, and increases their bargaining power within the party structure.
Outraged by the court’s decision and want to get organized? Groups like Public Citizen, Common Cause, MoveOn.org, Rootstrikers and Move to Amend are organizing rallies nationwide to speak out about the corrupting role that money plays in our political system. Find an event near you.
Still not satisfied? Head to SCOTUSblog, which covers all things Supreme Court, and comb through its extensive McCutcheon coverage.