Our federal and state governments are for sale – at huge price tags. Jan Schneider supports revival of reasonable campaign finance limits to restore democracy.
Fewer than 200 families are expected to fund more than half of the Presidential election, and the influence of “big money” interests is pervasive at all levels of political campaigns. The situation was exacerbated by Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission and McCutcheon v. FEC, both 5 to 4 decisions by the United States Supreme Court. The Senate and House of Representatives should vote for a Constitutional amendment to overturn these decisions and restore the ability of Congress and the states to establish campaign fundraising and spending rules that prevent billionaires and corporations from buying elections.
In the 2010 decision in Citizens United, the Supreme Court struck down §203 of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (“McCain-Feingold”). The Court held that the §203 prohibition on contributions by corporations and unions violated First Amendment free speech. Citizens United led to use of Super PACS to circumvent limits on individual donors.
Four years later, in the 2014 decision in McCutcheon, the Supreme Court struck down the limit on the total amount of money wealthy donors can give to federal candidates and political committees in a two-year period. The limit was enacted in the wake of Watergate, and for 2013- 14, the cap was $123,200 (including $74,600 to political parties and PACs and $48,600 to candidates).
These decisions aggravate the vicious cycle of concentrations of wealth and political power in this country. Donors making huge campaign contributions may buy politicians and elections; many elected officials in turn support reducing taxes on the wealthy and deregulating and bailing out their businesses; and the richest few get even richer. As the dissent pointed out in McCutcheon, “[w]here enough money calls the tune, the general public will not be heard.”