Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Total Domination: How the Wealthy will come to rule

Graphic from CBS News
On Tuesday, the Supreme Court agreed to hear a case that could potential remove the current limitations placed on individual donors during an election cycle.

Now, I know many of you are saying to yourself, "wait, didn't we already have this discussion with Citizens United?"  Yes, we did; however, that issue removed limits on how much a corporation, unions and individuals could contribute to groups that are 'unaffiliated' with candidates and political parties.  Which, if you were paying attention, lead to the proliferation of domination of Super PACs during the 2012 elections.  Over $4 BILLION was spent during this last election cycle on races for the White House and Congress.   

With Citizens United, the SCOTUS found that, "CORPORATIONS have a Constitutionally protected First Amendment right to Free Speech and are free to exercise that right by using their corporate bank accounts to buy as many campaign ads/videos/etc. as they want for (or against) political candidates."

It stands to reason (I'm looking at my blog partners in the legal field to correct me), at least to me, that if corporations (and individuals) have a Constitutionally protected First Amendment right to Free Speech to spend money on campaigns through 'unaffiliated' groups, then individuals (and corporations by SCOTUS definition) also have the First Amendment right to Free Speech to give unlimited money directly to political candidates.

To be fair, the plaintiff isn't requesting that the limit on individuals be lifted, just that an individual should be able to donate to any candidate of their choosing. 

As the law currently stand for calendar years 2013-14, individual donors are limited to giving contributions to candidates for federal offices up to a maximum of $123,200 during an election cycle (two years) with a limit of $2,600 to an individual candidate, $32,400 to a national political party, $10,000 to a state political party and $5,000 to any other political committee affiliated with a candidate or political party.
However, an Alabama political donor—joined by the Republican National Committee—believes that the limitation of $123,200 placed on an individual donor during an election cycle is ‘unconstitutionally low’ and want the highest court in the land to remove the cap.
 The Forbes article goes on to say:
The case now set to come before the Supreme Court will challenge only the total contribution cap and does not go after the limits placed on money given to individual candidates and political parties. However, based on the Court’s ruling in Citizens United, it is widely anticipated that were the Supreme Court to side with the plaintiffs in this matter and end the limits on the total contribution amount, the Court will have telegraphed its intention to do away with limitations of any kind or nature—making it only a matter of time until limits on individual contributions to candidates and political parties are also tossed into the dustbin of history.

No, I'm not a 'slippery slope' person when it comes to arguing the reasons for or against something, but I do see this as an opening for this court to 'unleash' the dragon.  And why not? 
They've made their positions known during Citizens United. 

The SCOTUS may overturn a decision made by the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit who held that the limits were constitutional as noted by Judge Janice Rogers Brown:
[T]he Supreme Court had previous held that limiting an individual’s political contributions had only a marginal effect on that person’s freedom of speech and that it was within Congress’ authority to place such limits on individual contributions.
Only time will tell which way the SCOTUS will decide.  But this does seem like the second phase to removing the limits put in place by congress to limited the overwhelming influence the wealthy may have on our political process.  Folks with limited resources are already under-represented as seen by the current political discussions around cutting back on programs that provide assistance and the minimum wage.  While it is true that this may not make too much of a difference for those running for president (except for the fact that we can kiss goodbye to 3rd party candidates), it will ABSOLUTELY make a difference for congressional seats and at the state and local levels.  This could be a proverbial foot on the neck of the poor completely preventing them from having their voices heard. 

Related Reading:
Judges ruling could force Super PACs to disclose their donors

What are your thoughts?
Will this matter during the elections?
Do you believe this is a constitutionally protected right?
Or, is it appropriate for congress to limit the amount of money?
Does money give an unfair advantage to the wealthy when it comes to politics?
Will removing the limits be better or worse for the country?
Do individual rights (any rights) outweigh the potentially negative impact those rights may have on the nation?  
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