I could probably begin this blog with a catchier example of what we need to rise up against, but then again, this is a pretty important little move on SCOTUS' part.
Let's talk McCutcheon, shall we? First, this article from The Washington Post from last October:
So what's this case all about?
Shaun McCutcheon is a conservative businessman from Alabama who likes to give money to political candidates and committees. He dished out thousands of dollars in donations last election cycle. He says he would have given more, if not for the law that says an individual can only donate a certain total amount each cycle to candidates and certain political committees. McCutcheon thinks the law is a violation of the First Amendment. The Republican National Committee, which joined McCutcheon in the case, agrees. From the perspective of the Federal Election Commission and those who favor tighter campaign finance restrictions, the limits are necessary to fight corruption.
How much can individuals give under the current law?
For the 2013-2014 cycle, individuals can give a total of $123,200 to candidates, national party committees and certain political committees, including a $48,600 limit on what individuals can give to candidates. There are also other limits. For example, an individual can only give $2,600 to a specific candidate for federal office, per election per cycle. While this case is focused on the aggregate limits, it's important keep all the limits in mind. (More on that in a moment.)
Why do these limits exist, anyway?
Because of changes to the Federal Election Campaign Act in 1974 that instituted them and created the FEC, the body that oversees and enforces campaign finance regulations. The act was amended in the wake of violations in the Watergate scandal.
So if the aggregate limits are struck down, what will it mean?
A couple of things. For one thing, wealthy donors who can afford to make many donations will have greater influence when it comes to donating to candidates directly. Under the current aggregate limit of $48,600, an individual can max out at 18 federal candidates per cycle. Think of how much more they could give in total if they maxed out at 50 candidates -- or even more.
Secondly, as The Washington Post's Robert Barnes and Matea Gold explain, defenders of the limits worry that such a ruling could dramatically increase the power and size of joint fundraising committees, which harness the fundraising power of different political committees. For example, the Obama Victory Fund joined together the DNC and Obama campaign last election cycle.
In addition, those who favor limits also worry that such a ruling could lead to doing away with all limits, including the individual limits mentioned above. It's worth noting that in the current environment, there are already entities called super PACs that are not subject to limits on how much money they can accept from donors.
So what is the court going to decide?
It's not clear. But it looks like Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. will be key in this case. It's less clear where they will come down, compared to the other conservatives justices, write Barnes and Gold.
And then on April 2, 2014, this happened:
Supreme Court ruling in McCutcheon v. FEC
The Supreme Court on Wednesday struck down limits in federal law on the overall campaign contributions the biggest individual donors may make to candidates, political parties and political action committees. Read the full story.
And this is what all of this means for us and for United States politics:
If wealth and income weren’t already so concentrated in the hands of a few, the shameful “McCutcheon” decision by the five Republican appointees to the Supreme Court wouldn’t be as dangerous. But by taking “Citizen’s United” one step further and effectively eviscerating campaign finance laws, the Court has issued an invitation to oligarchy.
Almost limitless political donations coupled with America’s dramatically widening inequality create a vicious cycle in which the wealthy buy votes that lower their taxes, give them bailouts and subsidies, and deregulate their businesses – thereby making them even wealthier and capable of buying even more votes. Corruption breeds more corruption.
That the richest four hundred Americans now have more wealth than the poorest 150 million Americans put together, the wealthiest 1 percent own over 35 percent of the nation’s private assets, and 95 percent of all the economic gains since the start of the recovery in 2009 have gone to the top 1 percent — all of this is cause for worry, and not just because it means the middle class lacks the purchasing power necessary to get the economy out of first gear.
It is also worrisome because such great concentrations of wealth so readily compound themselves through politics, rigging the game in their favor and against everyone else. “McCutcheon” merely accelerates this vicious cycle.
As Thomas Piketty shows in his monumental “Capital in the Twenty-First Century,” this was the pattern in advanced economies through much of the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. And it is coming to be the pattern once again.
Picketty is pessimistic that much can be done to reverse it (his sweeping economic data suggest that slow growth will almost automatically concentrate great wealth in a relatively few hands). But he disregards the political upheavals and reforms that such wealth concentrations often inspire — such as America’s populist revolts of the 1890s followed by the progressive era, or the German socialist movement in the 1870s followed by Otto von Bismarck’s creation of the first welfare state.
In America of the late nineteenth century, the lackeys of robber barons literally deposited sacks of money on the desks of pliant legislators, prompting the great jurist Louis Brandeis to note that the nation had a choice: “We can have a democracy or we can have great wealth in the hands of a few,” he said. “But we cannot have both.”
Soon thereafter America made the choice. Public outrage gave birth to the nation’s first campaign finance laws, along with the first progressive income tax. The trusts were broken up and regulations imposed to bar impure food and drugs. Several states enacted America’s first labor protections, including the 40-hour workweek.The question is when do we reach another tipping point, and what happens then?
Politicians don't have our backs. This is not a representative government 'of the people, by the people, and for the people' anymore. This kind of situation is not what the Founding Fathers had in mind when they set up a government of checks and balances. Politicians and corporations are used to people voting on single issues like abortion and homosexuality, and expect us to not care what they are doing with our money to ruin the people in the middle and lower classes and the environment.