Thursday, April 3, 2014

McCutcheon v. FEC and the Facade of Democracy

The New York Times reports that:
The Supreme Court on Wednesday continued its abolition of limits on election spending, striking down a decades-old cap on the total amount any individual can contribute to federal candidates in a two-year election cycle.

The ruling, issued near the start of a campaign season, will very likely increase the role money plays in American politics.

The 5-to-4 decision, with the court’s more conservative members in the majority, echoed Citizens United, the 2010 decision that struck down limits on independent campaign spending by corporations and unions.

Wednesday’s decision seemed to alter campaign finance law in subtle but important ways, notably by limiting how the government can justify laws said to restrict the exercise of First Amendment rights in the form of campaign contributions.

The court’s 88-page decision reflected sharply different visions of the meaning of the First Amendment and the role of government in regulating elections, with the majority deeply skeptical of government efforts to control participation in politics, and the minority saying that such oversight was needed to ensure a functioning democracy.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., writing for four justices in the controlling opinion, said the overall limits could not survive First Amendment scrutiny. “There is no right in our democracy more basic,” he wrote, “than the right to participate in electing our political leaders.”

In a dissent from the bench, Justice Stephen G. Breyer called the majority opinion a disturbing development that raised the overall contribution ceiling to “the number infinity.”

“If the court in Citizens United opened a door,” he said, “today’s decision may well open a floodgate.”

Such oral dissents are rare, and they signal deep disagreements. But Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Breyer noted from the bench that the other side’s arguments were well presented.

Wednesday’s decision did not affect familiar base limits on contributions from individuals to candidates, currently $2,600 per candidate in primary and general elections. But it said that overall limits of $48,600 by individuals every two years for contributions to all federal candidates violated the First Amendment, as did separate aggregate limits on contributions to political party committees, currently $74,600.
In his written opinion, Justice Breyer said Wednesday’s decision would allow “a single individual to contribute millions of dollars to a political party or to a candidate’s campaign.” He was joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.

The ruling, which goes in effect in a matter of weeks, concerned only contributions from individuals. Federal law continues to ban direct contributions by corporations and unions, though they remain free to spend unlimited sums through “super PACs” and similar vehicles.

The case, McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, No. 12-536, was brought by Shaun McCutcheon, an Alabama businessman, and the Republican National Committee. Mr. McCutcheon, who had contributed a total of about $33,000 to 16 candidates for federal office in the 2012 election cycle, said he had wanted to give $1,776 each to 12 more but was stopped by the overall cap for individuals. The party committee said it wanted to receive contributions above the legal limit for political committees.
America has never been a true democracy. She has simply managed to deceive the masses with the illusion of democracy. From the day of her birth, the United States has always been a plutocracy. She is literally a government for the rich, by the rich. The composition of Congress is proof. It is a millionaires club. As reported in the Washington Post, "Lawmakers’ average net worth in 2012 nosed above the seven-figure mark to $1,008,767, according to a new analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics, up from the none-too-shabby $966,000 the year before." In addition, through campaign contributions, political ads and lobbyists, the rich and the corporations have significant influence over the electoral process and legislative process. 

Before Citizens United and McCutcheon, the power elite already wielded undue influence over politicians on the local, state and federal levels.  Those court decisions will simply make it easier and less cumbersome for the bourgeoisie to maintain its dictatorship over the various branches of government. As the top one percent exercise their "First Amendment right" to buy politicians and judges, the rest of us will watch our rights and power diminish.

If we do not mobilize and organize, we will watch all campaign contribution limits be eliminated and the facade of democracy will come tumbling down.  We must fight to create a far more democratic society.

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