Supreme Court Strikes Down Aggregate Campaign Contribution Limits

By a politically divided 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court today struck down overall contribution limits to federal campaigns by individuals, citing free speech. This ruling should not be a shock given the Roberts court presided over the “Citizens United” case which, for legal purposes, declared corporations to have the same rights as citizens.

Corporations are people my friend. – Mitt Romney (2011)

High court voids overall contribution limits – Yahoo NewsThe justices said in a 5-4 vote that Americans have a right to give the legal maximum to candidates for Congress and president, as well as to parties and PACs, without worrying that they will violate the law when they bump up against a limit on all contributions, set at $123,200 for 2013 and 2014. That includes a separate $48,600 cap on contributions to candidates.

But their decision does not undermine limits on individual contributions to candidates for president or Congress, now $2,600 an election.

You might be shocked to learn I don’t really have that much of a problem with this specific ruling, my problem is more with the overall trend. The crux of the argument for striking down overall limits is that it doesn’t stop corruption, because it’s an aggregate limit, not directed at any one party, person, or campaign. And I happen to agree with that reasoning. An aggregate limit does not prevent corruption. But declaring corporate personhood, obviously a different ruling, does lead to corruption, and abuse of our political system. I’m afraid today’s ruling is just another in a long series of rulings designed (deliberately or not) to chip away at the foundation of our government of, by, and for the people. And as long as there are Super PACs, and worse, 501(c)(4) groups, that don’t have to disclose their donors, we will have a corrupt political campaign finance system.

I know the arguments from the Right … If we limit contributions, if government imposes any kind of limit at all, that is somehow tyranny, and a limit on free speech, and blah, blah, blah. People seem to forget that it’s “We the People” and we can shape our government and our laws as we see fit, and to make government work better for everyone. And if we don’t like something, we vote people out, we organize, we lobby until that something changes. But it also means that at any given time, there are laws on the books that some people disagree with. Such is the nature of a democracy, and that is our system of governance in a nutshell. The purpose of contribution limits, and disclosure, is to impede the tyranny of a politically active group of wealthy individuals. They should not have more access or more power than the average citizens. Yet, with their millions and billions, they have the ability to buy more free speech. That is wrong. I don’t know why it’s so hard for some people to see that, especially those with the privilege to serve the high court.

Supreme court building 7432022562 c66ef5ceb0 b

photo by Mark Fischer via Flickr

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