Dear Commons Community,
It was bad enough in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission that the US Supreme Court ruled that political spending is a form of protected speech under the First Amendment, and the government may not keep corporations or unions from spending money to support or denounce individual candidates in elections but now a 5-4 ruling in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission strikes down the limit any individual can contribute to federal candidates in a two-year election cycle. This ruling significantly increases the role money plays in American politics. The Sunlight Foundation commented:
“Once again, the Supreme Court has given more power to special interests and a tiny percentage of the very rich. Its Citizens United ruling four years ago opened up the floodgates for unlimited spending in our elections, and now it might as well have tied a big bow around Congress and deliver it to the 1%. By striking down the long-standing cap on total contributions individuals may give to federal candidates and political parties, the Supreme Court has permitted the unseemly spectacle of a single donor being able to contribute more than $3.5 million to one party during an election cycle (or double that, if he/she wants to hedge her bets).
In light of today’s decision in McCutcheon v. FEC, we need now more than ever real-time transparency of political spending so the public can know whether their elected officials are representing their interests or special moneyed interests. It’s technologically possible, so there’s no reason Congress should not act fast to enact legislation to mandate disclosure of all contributions of $1,000 or more to parties, candidates and political committees within 48 hours.
What this court fails to recognize is the First Amendment rights of the 99.9% of citizens who cannot buy access to elected officials in order to give voice to their issues. Seven-figure contributions are not a megaphone merely amplifying the voices of the donors, they are a sonic boom, overpowering to the point of silencing all other voices. Real-time transparency can foster accountability, deter corruption and act as a bulwark against the unfettered and wholesale purchase of our elections by the wealthy.”
Noam Chomsky was much more succinct in his commentary on the decision: “Let’s forget about any pretense of being a democratic society”.