Coloradans must be vigilant to repel high court’s attack on finance reform
The plutocratic wing of the divided Roberts Supreme Court has set a course to dismantle election reforms that have served for decades to limit corruption and assure fair and transparent elections.
Repudiating even the pretense of a democratic process, Chief Justice John Roberts writes, “No matter how desirable it may seem, it is not an acceptable governmental objective to ‘level the playing field,’ or to equalize the financial resources of candidates.”
Influence over an elected official secured by generous campaign contributions is not regarded as “corruption” unless it results in a direct “quid-pro-quo” exchange between the candidate and the contributor.
As Roberts explains, “Spending large sums of money in connection with elections, but not in connection with an effort to control the exercise of an officeholder’s official duties, does not give rise to such quid pro quo corruption. Nor does the possibility that an individual who spends large sums may garner ‘influence over or access to’ elected officials or political parties. And because the Government’s interest in preventing the appearance of corruption is equally confined to the appearance of quid pro quo corruption, the Government may not seek to limit the appearance of mere influence or access.”
As summarized by Jeffrey Toobin in The New Yorker, “Roberts is defining ‘quid pro quo’ corruption almost as outright bribery, which Congress can outlaw. But the implication of what Roberts is saying is that anything short of outright bribery is protected by the First Amendment.”
With great sympathy for rich patrons who are limited by both the amount they can contribute to a candidate, and the number of candidates they can support, Roberts and his cabal on the court are determined to enable wealthy campaign contributors to give money to all candidates they choose to support.
Previous rules limited both the amount that could be given to a candidate, and the number of candidates a single individual could support. The recent ruling keeps in place the amount that can be given to a single candidate, but allows contributions to an unlimited number of candidates
“With its decision today in McCutcheon, the Supreme Court majority continued on its march to destroy the nation’s campaign finance laws, which were enacted to prevent corruption and protect the integrity of our democracy,” Democracy 21 president Fred Wertheimer said in a statement quoted by the McCutcheon Watch blog.
At the same source, Robert Weissman, Public Citizen president, pointed out that “a single donor can now give more than $5 million in individually limited contributions to every House candidate, every Senate candidate, every state party committee, every national party committee and every leadership PAC connected to one political party.”
Weissman continued, “This is truly a decision establishing plutocrat rights. The Supreme Court today holds that the purported right of a few hundred super-rich individuals to spend outrageously large sums on campaign contributions outweighs the national interest in political equality and a government free of corruption.”
In a statement responding to the Supreme Court’s decision in McCutcheon vs. FEC, U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., said, “Thanks to the Citizens United decision, Coloradans are already witnessing the effects of limitless anonymous spending on campaigns — all they have to do is turn on the TV at night to see the endless attack ads. The last thing we need is more unchecked spending. Today’s decision further chips away at any remaining faith our voters have in our electoral system.”
Almost a year ago, Bennet and New Mexico Sen. Tom Udall, both Democrats, introduced for the second time a constitutional amendment affirming the right of Congress, individual states, and the American people to regulate campaign financing.
According to a statement by Bennet, “The constitutional amendment would allow Congress to address the dangerous Citizens United Supreme Court decision and rein in the unprecedented flood of secret money in the campaign finance system. Congress would regulate the raising and spending of money, including so-called ‘Super PAC’ independent expenditures, while giving states the same authority to regulate campaign finance at their level.”
Udall explains the second part of the proposed amendment: “Money and free speech are not the same thing ... We can’t fix this broken system until we undo the false premise — that spending money on elections is the same thing as the constitutional right of free speech.”
Coloradans of all political persuasions should recognize this oligarchical crusade as an attack on the fundamentals of democracy and refuse to accept its fundamental premise that money speaks louder than words.