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Saturday, October 22, 2016

Aug. 26 (Bloomberg) — One of the first cases the Supreme Court will consider in its next session is whether to allow millions, perhaps billions, more dollars into the U.S. political system.

That may seem like a joke considering that more than $6 billion was pumped into last year’s elections. A flood of special-interest money, courtesy of rulings by Chief Justice John Roberts’ court, led to a campaign that many found depressing.

The issue that will be argued on October 8 is whether to remove the almost four-decade limit on the aggregate amounts any contributor can give directly to candidates and parties for federal elections in a single cycle. There are no limits now on independent expenditures or money given to political action committees, creating what critics call a system of legalized indirect bribery.

If the court decides to remove most of the limits on upfront contributions to presidential or congressional campaigns, it would no longer be indirect.

Going back to its first major campaign-finance decision in 1976, the high court has always distinguished between contributions, and majorities have ruled they can be limited to prevent corruption or the appearance thereof.

That contrasts with expenditures that the court has ruled are a form of speech. These rulings included the lifting of the ceiling on the amount of personal money a rich candidate could spend and the infamous Citizens United case, which freed corporate money to be spent on supposedly independent political expenditures.

Then a lower court gave the green light to wealthy individuals to give unlimited sums to so-called SuperPACs, which back politicians but are supposed to be distinct from the campaigns, which is a bit of a fiction.

Until now, the high court has consistently upheld limits on direct contributions to candidates for federal office or political parties. If the court reverses these precedents, the impact on campaign spending and influence-peddling would be considerable.

“The consequences could be worse than Citizen United,” says Fred Wertheimer, the president of Democracy 21, who has been a tireless advocate for campaign-finance reform for 40 years.

Critics of campaign-finance limits reply that such alarm is typical of ole Fred, who claims the sky is falling every time another dollar is thrown into politics. And, they believe, the public won’t be aroused by arcane fights over “aggregate” ceilings.

Yet Wertheimer, and the amicus brief to the Supreme Court filed by former U.S. Solicitor General Seth Waxman, is taking on big stuff.

It’s first necessary to understand that all political spending isn’t equal. Any campaign will tell you that the money it controls is far more valuable than the money spent by outside supporters. The money unleashed by Citizens United and other decisions contributed to the ugly tone of last year’s campaign, but it wasn’t as important as the money spent by President Barack Obama, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney and most congressional candidates.

Under current law, a rich contributor, who can spend any amount on independent efforts or SuperPACs, is limited to donations of $74,600 an election cycle to the party committees; in addition, a total of $48,600 can be given to individual candidates.

Here’s what would happen if the court strikes down these aggregate limits:

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Copyright 2013 The National Memo
  • Dominick Vila

    One of the most pervasive influences that is already destroying our political process, corrupting our legislative and judicial processes, and influencing the outcome of elections is money. It buys politicians, it dominates the airwaves and public opinion, it gives impetus to military intervention in other countries, and it controls our economy which, by default, controls our way of life and our future. Opening the floodgates to more money in politics will complete the transition from a democratic Republic to a plutocracy where the elite controls all facets of life. The last thing we need is more money in our political system, in fact, the goal should be the exact opposite.

    • midway54

      As usual, I agree with your thoughtful and accurate viewpoints.

      My own opinion for what little it is worth is that we are quite well into a Gilded Age II Plutocracy with no real indication that much if anything can or will be done to improve things. It is growing increasingly worse, and dwarfs the first Gilded Age which severely impacted average, economically struggling Americans whose efforts to form labor unions to better their lives were met with hostile courts, corporations and of course the plutocrats,

    • Lovefacts

      Our only hope is that Kennedy–having seen that what’s actually happened, not what he said would in his decision–will vote with the Democrats. As for the rest of the “conservatives” on the court, they’ll go to the highest bidder. Through their decisions from 2000 to the present, they have no interest in the middle class or poor. Scalia. for example, disapproves of the popular vote for Senators and selection of presidential candidates. Given his opinions and that Thomas is his clone–not to mention Alito seem to be following in Scalia’s footsteps–anyone who’s female or isn’t a member of the 1% is in trouble.

    • bernieo

      I get so frustrated because Democrats almost never bring their arguments down to this core issue – the health of our democracy – whether the discussion is education, social programs, healthcare, economics the underlying rationale for having a role for government should alsways come down to this. No democracy has ever survived without clean, fair elections that encourage participation byball.
      Neither has one without a solid middle class and this has never existed without the support of government. Without such support societies revert to the natural state of a small, powerful and wealthy ruling class and a large number of low wage workers to do their bidding with a small middle class in between to take care of things like caring for the sick or teaching the affluent kids.
      Likewise democracies cannot function without religious freedom for all, not just the dominant group.
      People need to understand that out primary political goal should be to promote those things that support the health of our democracy. That is the most effective way to convince voters. I

  • charleo1

    I think most Americans would say, we need less money in politics, influencing
    policy. As it is already replacing to an alarming extent, the will of the people.
    One example was gun control legislation. When in poll after poll, showed
    the American public favored background checks on all gun sales by an extraordinary. 90%. The Bill ultimately failed because the NRA, is more important, and more powerful, politically, than even 9 out of 10 of us. In other opinion polls, Americans, even Conservative Americans, have agreed their own taxes needed to be raised to offset the deficits created by the wars, and recession. Wide margins of the public want Congress to work with President Obama, on measures to create jobs. Yet, Congress flat out refuses. And so, Congressional approval rates are at
    an all time low. They could not care less. They know generous contributors, and gerrymandered districts assure them of reelection. But, it’s not as if they are unaccountable, they are. Just not to the people of the United States anymore.
    The Robert’s Court has proven, they advocate unlimited money in the political process. Pac money, corporate money, money from secret donors, foreign money. Free speech is money, according to the new law of the land. And whoever can afford the loudest bull horn wins. They could not be more complicit in selling out
    our democracy, if they were being paid themselves. Which nothing surprises me

    • highpckts

      It’s all about ” I’ve got mine so screw you”!

      • charleo1

        You’re right. But those words will never inspire a Country to greatness.
        Like United we Stand, Divided We Fall, does. Can you imagine the
        soldiers hitting Omaha Beach, crying ,”I’ve got mine, so screw you?”
        Or, General Washington at Valley Forge, imploring the freezing, and hungry troops to stay on past their enlistments. Even though none had ever experienced victory, up to that time even once, aganist the King’s Army? I’ve got mine! So screw thee, you stupid Patriots! These men that have no higher calling, than the exercise of self enrichment,
        have no souls. And in the end are shallow, and advance nothing.

  • latebloomingrandma

    This is pretty scary stuff. There is such a restlessness and anger in this country. No sense of “community” any more. Everyone is out for themselves instead of the sense of all being in this together. It’s as though something is terribly wrong, by an unseen hand, but no one knows what exactly it is. Everyone has their own theory, including some far-fetched conspiracy theories. MY theory is the insidious effect of the vast disparity of incomes in this country. Unfortunately, in a free and capitalist society, power is where the money is. When a few people/families have the greatest amount of money in the country, they wield tremendous power. We can feel the effects even if we can’t put our finger on it. Look at all the damage it has caused, starting with the implosion of the economy in 2008. None of those at the top suffered much, yet the rest of us are still damaged. The country’s soul was severely damaged, as it was after 9/11. My only sign of some hopefulness is that the rich were unable to buy the 2012 election. But they still hold the House of Representatives in their clutches. The people better wake up and realized how big, often un-named money owns our Congresspeople. The Supremes better realize this and if they have any conscience at all and love of country, will put the brakes on this runaway money.

  • Annemb

    This is crap!

    The SCOTUS had better NOT continue to allow more and more money to be poured into our democracy. Those who vote for it should be let go from their positions. Yes, I know that they have their job for life – but … they are destroying our country via the Supreme Court and saying “the h–l with “we the people.”

    • Larry Jones

      It is my personal opinion this might be one of the worst Supreme Courts in the history of America. They disgrace those who went before them. They dishonor their heritage.

      • Annemb

        I totally agree with you. I, too, believe this is one of the worst Supreme Courts in our history. This SCOTUS truly is a “disgrace” to “those who went before them” … do “dishonor their heritage.”

        I am saddened by their unethical (IMO) decisions as if there isn’t enough suffering by the citizenry – the decisions of the majority of SCOTUS are certainly not for the benefit and continuing of our great country.

        Thanks for your words.

      • charleo1

        Just more happy returns from America’s numb skull and chief
        George What the Hell am I doing in the White House, Bush.

  • Larry Jones

    What the Supreme Court will do if they rule against any kind of spending limits is to put our Government up to the highest bidder. They will turn a government of the people, by the people and for the people into a system of lords and kings of money. A ruling allowing unlimited contributions means that those of the middle class will have very little voice in government. We will be returning to the days when the working class were treated as if they were property of corporations. Some of these so called justices say they are Christian. They disgrace that name by their rulings. Somewhere it is said in the Bible that money is the root of all evil. I guess the so called Justices forgot their bible studies. It is my opinion this might be one of the worst Supreme Courts in history.

  • S.J. Jolly

    How long until those supporting allowing unlimited amounts of political donations discover that powerful politicians could DEMAND huge donations? Such as Nixon did, when he needed big money for the Watergate cover-up?

  • jointerjohn

    The SCOTUS gave George W. Bush the presidency in 2001. He in turn gave the SCOTUS Justices Alito and Roberts. Think about the long-term impact of Florida’s 2000 election fraud and selective voter suppression. Every single vote in every single election can have dire consequences.

  • Annemb

    I don’t remember where I read this – but I couldn’t resist searching this quote about the love of money. For some reason, the words are always misquoted to be – the love of money is the root of all evil. The following is the actual quote:
    ***For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. (1 Timothy 6.10) English Standard Version Anglicised [Ibid]. 1 Timothy 6.9-11 in context …1 Timothy 6 is the whole chapter)

    ***In particular I love these words from “The Message” …which is not a translation from the original texts but is written in today’s language:
    “But if it’s only money these leaders are after, they’ll self destruct in no time. Lust for money brings trouble and nothing but trouble. Going down the path, some lose their footing in the faith completely and live to regret it bitterly ever after. (1 Timothy 9-10)

    • Larry Jones

      So if I read you right if the “Supreme Numbskulls” that vote favor of letting unlimited money to be given to candidates, they will be in fact voting to let unlimited evil into our political system. I guess they will selling out to the highest bidder. Great way to allow the country to be controlled. The Kings and Dukes of money will be in control and the middle class will be their serfs. A country of the people, by the people and for the people will not longer exist. This bunch of loons already think corporations are people, I guess they also think the middle class should no longer exist either.

      • Annemb

        Yes, you are correct in your understanding.


  • Angel Perea

    THE INCONVENIENT TRUTH: Hey Judge Roberts, do you think you and Clarence Thomas, our Affirmative Action Appointee, would like to be co-keynote speakers at today’s I have a dream rally? After all, it did not take a rocket scientist to conclude that “The notion that because the Voting Rights Act had been so tremendously effective we had to stop it. It didn’t make any sense to me,” as stated by Judge Ginsburg in a recent interview “And one really could have predicted what was going to happen to create new voter suppression efforts and attempts to violate civil voting rights of any American! Maybe you and Clarance can talk about this Supreme Court’s arrogance and foolishness in its ruling with its implications of how you are misunderstood? For the record, this Roberts Activist Court must be publicly shamed and be embarrassed for their political active game playing with our established LAWS! They have destroyed the Courts historical creditability!

    • Larry Jones

      First, Clarence Thomas is a BINO. He is a Blackman In Name Only. I think perhaps Thomas thinks that now that he has become a Supreme Court Justice he is no longer one of those common black men. Sadly, I am guessing he got where he is because he had some help. I am guessing rather than be an example for young black man, Clarence Thomas is held up as an example of someone for a young black man to turn into. He is someone who forgot those who went before him, and he really has forgotten those who will come after him. He may be one of the worst Supremes on the court in my opinion. I think most of his opinions are written by “Old Scabby” as I call Scalia.