by Jan Baughman
(Swans - April 7, 2014) This week's US Supreme Court ruling on McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission ruled in favor of Shaun McCutcheon, who argued that limits to campaign contributions are a violation of his First Amendment right to free speech, putting yet another chink in the armor of democracy, at least the mythic version of which we still pretend exists. So while protesters are required to pay for a permit to protest, and find themselves fenced and prodded like cattle in free-speech zones, the moneyed can now buy a fast-track pass to influence those in power, or those aspiring to be. Citizens United has become Billionaires Unleashed.
Just who is Shaun McCutcheon? An electrical engineer, business owner, and according to his Web site, "...the chairman of Conservative Action Fund, a Super PAC that promotes conservative Republicans' time-proven messages and effective solutions... Shaun enjoys working with Republican organizations to help elect true conservatives so that we can find real long term solutions to the issues we face today."
Clearly, those issues do not include political corruption, oligarchy, the growing economic divide, and increasing limits to actual free speech. The issues they are facing today include a Republican Party in disarray and conservatives moving ever further from the values of the populous. What's left as ammunition, but money? There is plenty of that to be spent, and now instead of an aggregate limit of $48,600 to candidates ($2,600 each up to 18), the amount is limitless. The previous $74,600 cap on donations to political parties and Political Action Committees (PACs)? Gone.
One can imagine this decision impacting not just the power of limitless spending by the wealthy: In this increasingly uneven playing field, will the average citizen bother to give a few dollars of his hard-earned money, knowing he cannot even compete? One analysis considers the 2012 presidential election, in which "1,219 elite donors contributed $155.2 million to candidates, parties, and PACs. Without an aggregate contribution limit, we estimate that these donors would have contributed $459.3 million in the 2012 cycle. As a point of reference, this projected sum is 47% more than all of the funds that President Obama and Governor Romney raised combined from at least 4,040,442 small donors."
Thanks to the Supreme Court, whose noble building boasts the phrase "EQUAL JUSTICE UNDER LAW," democracy has moved one step further away from equal justice, and any prospect for common citizens and third-party candidates to have an impact on politics at large has become out of reach and unaffordable. "One person, one vote" is a phrase for the history books, to be replaced by "One percent, limitless votes."
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