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Court Sides With the 1%

4/04/2014
This week, by a 5-4 vote, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down critical limits in our nation’s federal election law on the total amount of money wealthy individuals can contribute directly to political candidates and committees. See the full decision (McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission) here.

Wednesday’s decision against the FEC concerns a campaign finance restriction that few Americans knew about and fewer could afford to violate. The restriction limited individual contributions to candidates at $48,600, plus $74,600 total on contributions to political parties and committees. Those limits have now been lifted, allowing a single person to dole out millions of dollars to political candidates, parties, and committees.

What does this mean for democracy and the middle class? It means that the 1% - or the self-described “.01%” like Bruce Rauner - could write a check for millions to candidates willing to push their agenda and gain more control over our democratic process.

AFT President Randi Weingarten had this to say:
"With this ruling, the voices of everyday Americans have gotten squashed again. We once had rules that allowed everyone a fair shot at the American dream and access to democracy, but now access to government is reserved for the most powerful and influential with millions and millions of dollars to buy elections.

"The avalanche of money spent on elections would be better spent creating jobs, improving our neighborhood public schools, fixing our disintegrating infrastructure and building a better future for our children."

Justice Stephen Breyer summarized the ruling in his written dissent:

“The First Amendment advances not only the individual’s right to engage in political speech, but also the public’s interest in preserving a democratic order in which collective speech matters.

This is a step backwards, but money can’t buy everything. Our collective power of the people is still a strong force. And there are efforts underway to push back, like Senator Dick Durbin’s Fair Elections Now Act, a bill to restore confidence in our broken campaign finance system and curb the growing influence of big money in politics.

It’s going to be an uphill battle, but it’s one worth fighting.


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