by Colleen Flaherty
Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court dealt a blow to fair elections with a decision that will increase the already enormous influence wealthy individuals have over democracy in America.
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“America’s working families lost when the Supreme Court’s ruling on McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission effectively removed meaningful limits on the total amount an individual can directly contribute to candidates, political parties and political committees,” said Dennis Van Roekel, Arizona teacher and NEA president. “The ruling creates yet another loophole that will allow a single individual to contribute millions of dollars to political parties, candidates and multi-candidate PACs.”
The issue in the case was whether the First Amendment prohibits reasonable campaign restrictions that placed aggregate limits on the amounts that wealthy individuals can give to candidates, political parties and PACs in federal elections.
An amicus was filed in support of contribution limits, arguing that the current limits preserve the integrity of the election process and don’t significantly infringe on the rights of wealthy individuals who make massive aggregate contributions.
The Supreme Court ruled that the limits were in fact a violation of the First Amendment, and like the Court’s decision in Citizens United— which allowed corporations to give unlimited amounts of money to influence elections—the McCutcheon decision once again equates money with speech, giving a larger voice to the wealthy.
“At a time when the lopsided playing field unfairly benefits the haves over the have-nots, the McCutcheon decision opens the floodgates even further for corporations and the monied elite to dominate our democracy. The majority opinion goes on to strike down aggregate limits that only prevent the very richest in our society from contributing to every campaign they would like and, thereby, dominating the political discourse,” said Van Roekel.
“Our country was founded on the premise that democracy is not for sale. No kindergarten teacher, school nurse, librarian, food service worker or school bus driver can compete with the deep pockets of billionaires. Taken together with Citizens United, today’s decision guts America’s campaign finance laws, leaving a remnant incapable of dealing with the grave problems of democratic legitimacy that those laws were intended to resolve.”