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Headed to the Supreme Court for oral arguments on October 8 is a case that could be worse for the American public than Citizens United v. FEC, and unleash countless millions of special interest dollars into political campaigns. In this case, McCutcheon and the Republican National Committee v. FEC, Shaun McCutcheon, an Alabama businessman, and the Republican National Committee have teamed up to try and eliminate the aggregate spending limits for federal elections that are in place.

Currently under federal law, there are base limits on spending (the amounts that you can give to a particular candidate or committee) and aggregate limits on spending (the amounts that you can contribute across all political candidates and committees). In a carefully orchestrated legal strategy, building off cases like Citizens United and Speechnow.org v. FEC, McCutcheon and the RNC are challenging the aggregate limits, but not the base limits for campaign contributions. In this way, McCutcheon and the RNC are seeking to chip away at federal protections designed to reduce corruption in politics.

But don't be fooled, McCutcheon and the RNC are trying to chip off a pretty huge chunk.

McCutcheon's view would blow the lid off the amount of money the super rich could contribute to campaigns and influence politics compared to the average American. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the median American family makes $52,762 a year. What would be a reasonable limit that any individual, in accordance with a constitution that begins "We the people", could contribute to campaigns to ensure that elected officials represent all people and not only a select few? $10,000? $20,000? $52,762?

The current aggregate limits are set at $123,200, more than twice what an average American family makes in a year. And these are the limits that McCutcheon and the RNC are challenging. Under their view, any individual could contribute more than fifty times what an average American family makes in a year at $3.63 million.

Here is the problem for McCutcheon and the RNC: their view doesn'™t hold water with public opinion or Supreme Court precedent. More than two thirds of Americans, spanning both political parties, support contribution limits. And the Supreme Court has already flatly decided that aggregate contribution limits are constitutional and serve the legitimate purposes of "preventing corruption or the appearance of corruption" and "œpreventing circumvention of contribution limits imposed to further anti-corruption interests." Buckley v. Valeo (1974).

But here is the problem for the American people: the same justices that struck down the distinction between the political speech of people and corporations in Citizens United are now going to be deciding McCutcheon.

McCutcheon and the RNC are arguing that the world is different from the one in which aggregate limits were first enacted, and from when the Supreme Court affirmed their constitutionality in 1974. But nothing could be further from the truth. The American people's confidence in Congress is at historic lows,  while the amount of money pumped into campaigns is at historic highs.  McCutcheon and the Republican National Committee v. FEC threatens to inject significantly greater amounts of money into campaigns from an elite few, making a contribution-hungry Congress even more beholden to special interests.

So what can you do to ensure that your voice isn't further drowned by money in politics? Speak. Campaign finance issues are live around the country, and the voices of many are the only way to balance the money of few.  Get started and leave a comment here.

Originally posted to Patrick Kibbe on Tue Oct 01, 2013 at 09:18 AM PDT.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Yes nt (8+ / 0-)

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Tue Oct 01, 2013 at 09:24:22 AM PDT

  •  Patrick - good first diary (13+ / 0-)

    This is a very important case and if the plaintiffs win campaign limits of all kinds could be next on the chopping block.

    For those interested in cases before the Supreme Court the best place to follow them is at scotusblog.com, a great website known for their comprehensive coverage of the cases and award winning "In Plain English" columns. Here is the link to the coverage of McCutcheon v FEC:

    http://www.scotusblog.com/...

    "let's talk about that"

    by VClib on Tue Oct 01, 2013 at 09:28:23 AM PDT

  •  Fine with me if they do. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    pee dee fire ant

    Money is speech and restrictions on money are a restriction on speech.  While it may be a common and common-sense belief that too much speech for some impinges on the rights of others, that belief in not only unsupported by our constitutional tradition but is wholly opposed to it.  That aside, I believe that people should see our system as it really is, and campaign finance restrictions only obscure that reality while bringing no effective controls in return.

    You know, I sometimes think if I could see, I'd be kicking a lot of ass. -Stevie Wonder at the Glastonbury Festival, 2010

    by Rich in PA on Tue Oct 01, 2013 at 10:47:01 AM PDT

    •  Why is money speech? It isn't in other contexts. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Catkin, jan4insight

      In the campaign finance area, if there's anything money shouldn't be "like", it's speech.

      2014 IS COMING. Build up the Senate. Win back the House : 17 seats. Plus!

      by TRPChicago on Tue Oct 01, 2013 at 02:35:08 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Oh good (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Catkin

      If money is speech, and I have absolute freedom of speech, then I assume you don't have any objection to me, say, hiring someone to kill you. I mean, after all, if you restricted me from doing that, you'd be restricting what I could say!

      •  I hope that's not the best rejoinder out there. (0+ / 0-)

        Performative speech, where speech is the vehicle for planning something illegal,  is acknowledged by all sensible people and legal systems to be something more than speech.  

        You know, I sometimes think if I could see, I'd be kicking a lot of ass. -Stevie Wonder at the Glastonbury Festival, 2010

        by Rich in PA on Tue Oct 01, 2013 at 03:26:28 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  If Money is speech, then we are not a democracy (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      jan4insight, Amber6541, pvasileff

      Mr. Koch gives $16 million to Senator Cruz when he runs for President in 2016.  If Cruz is elected (with the help of voter suppression), Mr. Koch calls President Cruz and demands that that Cruz does X, Y and Z, what are the chances that:

      Mr. Koch will get into the White House to see President Cruz? and

      President Cruz will do X, Y and Z.

      Meanwhile, back in 2008 I gave $100 to candidate Obama and for some reason he won't return my phone calls, much less do what I demand.

      So if money is speech, those that got it rule, the rest of us are worthless pieces of trash.

      "We have always known that heedless self-interest was bad morals, now we know that it is bad economics." Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Jan. 20, 1937

      by Navy Vet Terp on Tue Oct 01, 2013 at 04:34:59 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  It's what happens after the fact that matters... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Navy Vet Terp

        Sure, campaign contributions are nice, but after the pol has your money, he could just fuck you over as well as anyone else.

        The real power is the reward system in place for pols who play nice.

        When was the last time YOU got a $100,000 speaking fee?

        How many board of director positions do you hold?

        Bill and Hilary are worth over $100 million now.   How do you think that happened?

        Campaign contributions are just the appetizer.


        The Fail will continue until actual torches and pitchforks are set in motion. - Pangolin@kunstler.com

        by No one gets out alive on Tue Oct 01, 2013 at 04:59:23 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  NavyVT - under current laws (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Navy Vet Terp

        Mr. Koch could not give the Cruz campaign $16 million and that will still be the case if the plaintiffs win this case. Mr. Koch's contribution to the Cruz campaign is limited by statute. What Mr. Koch could do is spend $16 supporting Cruz in independent expenditures that cannot be coordinated with the Cruz campaign.  

        "let's talk about that"

        by VClib on Wed Oct 02, 2013 at 07:23:21 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Restriction not opposed to Constitution (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      LillithMc, pvasileff

      Rich, thanks for your comment. You raise a good point that restrictions on money (campaign spending) are restrictions on speech. That is certainly true. But free speech is not absolute, and restrictions on speech are not wholly opposed to our constitutional tradition. (e.g. Falsely yelling "fire" in a crowded theater is not protected by the first amendment, a phrase that came out of a 1919 Supreme Court case). Instead, our constitutional jurisprudence allows restrictions on speech when they are sufficiently justified.  In the case of campaign finance, the Supreme Court has held that restrictions on campaign contributions impact first amendment rights of freedom of association, and not direct advocacy (which would be like writing a comment on Kos). And campaign contributions are only one way to exercise the right of freedom of association, so the Supreme Court has said that they campaign finance restrictions can be justified if there is a sufficiently important purpose. In Buckley v. Valeo (1974), the Supreme Court recognized reducing corruption or the appearance of corruption as sufficiently important reasons to justify the "marginal" restriction on freedom of association. And those reasons are still sufficiently important today, if not more so.

      •  Please Don't Cite "Fire In A Crowded Theater" (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        BasharH, pvasileff

        That 1919 case is one of the worst in SCOTUS history. The ruling was that a socialist group speaking against the draft in WWI and encouraging draft resistance was able to be arrested under the Espionage act because his advocacy posed a "clear and present danger."

        The 1919 case (Schenk v US) led to a string of horrible SCOTUS decisions which restricted free speech and free press in regards to anti war and left wing ideas.

        This is exactly the kind of speech that ought to be protected. "Direct advocacy" as you said.

        The question here is really about commercial speech. Considering the fact that the government can ban tobacco advertising, it's perfectly reasonable for the government to regulate corporate political advertising.

        "Poor man wanna be rich, Rich man wanna be King, and the King ain't satisfied till he rules everything." Bruce Springsteen.

        by Johnnythebandit on Tue Oct 01, 2013 at 07:25:48 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Great point; using phrase (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          pvasileff

          Thanks for commenting, great point. Was using the recognizable phrase, and not the case citation, to comment that restrictions on speech have not been absolutely against our constitutional tradition. As you point out though, getting them right is key.

      •  restriction on speech? is paying a crack dealer a (0+ / 0-)

        speech act if I'm wholeheartedly endorsing his activity? The issue is that the court is conducting legislative hearings on a purely legislative political issue. The Court no longer even apologizes when it exceeds its authority as in Bush v. Gore. Think of the separation of powers like neighboring houses and I use my neighbor's refrigerator whenever I'm hungry. He's my employee and puts up with it. I'm the Court, my neighbor is Congress. Judicial supremacy caused the civil war, Jim Crow, and both gilded ages, perhaps Americans will begin to see a pattern here.

      •  Actually, what the Supreme Court held was that (0+ / 0-)

        the campaign finance restrictions were necessary to prevent corruption and the appearance of corruption.

        This makes sense for the individual campaign limits - if I give $1MM to Senator X it makes sense that he would be beholden to me - but it does not make sense for the overall limits on total giving.

        How can it not be corruption or the appearance of corruption to give $X to one senator but be corruption or the appearance of corruption to give $X to each of 50 senators?  Makes no sense unless you think there are volume discounts for buying politicians.

    •  Money is not speech. Speech is speech. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      jan4insight
    •  Well then in that case anti-bribery laws are also (0+ / 0-)

      unconstitutional.  After all, since money is speech do I not have the right to make it clear what I expect in exchange for that million dollar campaign contribution?  Sure, I might not be able to sue for specific performance but how is it not a restriction on my speech to make it illegal to say "I will give $X to your campaign if you vote to pass this law for me"?

      You have watched Faux News, now lose 2d10 SAN.

      by Throw The Bums Out on Wed Oct 02, 2013 at 03:27:16 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Not rich in PA (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      pvasileff, Oh Mary Oh

      Join the ranks of the serfs if you think money does not matter in what is quickly not a democracy.  The gang of 5 are creating the old world of King George where the lords rule and take your money for themselves.  It is not democracy and they know it.

  •  Title too long (0+ / 0-)

    "Will the Supreme Court Abolish Common Sense?" is closer to the mark.

    Seriously, don't the SuperPAC laws provide enough flexibility for the very rich to contribute as much as they like?  I'm trying to figure out what this gives rich donors that they don't have already.

  •  Well, popular opinion (0+ / 0-)

    Shouldn't have anything to do with a supreme court justice's opinion, so I don't really find that valid.

    But as far as "we the people" it does seem that a few voices are louder than others, but why does someone else get to decide how loud I can shout if I've earned the money to shout louder? Complicated question.

    http://callatimeout.blogspot.com/ Jesus Loves You. Keep pointing out others. You're most likely the problem.

    by DAISHI on Tue Oct 01, 2013 at 02:19:53 PM PDT

    •  Because beyond a certain point, that is to say (6+ / 0-)

      when you have so much money that you get to outshout everyone else when you "shout", you are not shouting. You are buying influence. Buying influence is corruption.  That is the essence of the Montana law.

      The Corrupt 5 on the Supreme Court will happily cast down this law, saying that "just because you can go to your congresscritter after you elect him, and tell him he's in office because of you, that is not a bribe, that is not corruption." But that is a distinction without a difference. I don't care if the method of corruption is a straight bribe, or paying enormous amounts to get someone in office, or taking them on all-expense-paid trips such as members of the Supreme Court are wont to get from their buddies.

      It's corruption, and it stinks. That's why it's called corruption.

      •  Senator William A Clark of Montana (3+ / 0-)

        Back in 1899, when state legislatures "elected" U.S. Senators, was elected by paying off a majority of the state legislature.   Clark said, "I never bought a man who wasn't for sale."  The scandal led to the adoption of the 17th Amendment that provides for the popular election of U.S. Senators, an amendment that some of the teahaddists running for the Senate in 2010 promised to work to repeal.

        Guess the corrupt 5 will retroactively make Senator Clark's campaign contributions legal.

        "We have always known that heedless self-interest was bad morals, now we know that it is bad economics." Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Jan. 20, 1937

        by Navy Vet Terp on Tue Oct 01, 2013 at 04:40:48 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Complicated question? Here's another. (6+ / 0-)

      I'm 6' 5" tall and weigh 260 pounds. I'm a veteran and have studied martial arts. I can easily beat up most men and all women. Haven't I earned the right to always get my way?

    •  Court of Public Opinion (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      pvasileff

      To clarify, the fact that 2/3 of the American people think that there should be campaign contributions is not a legal argument that will be made in front of the Supreme Court. Instead the point was made to show out of step McCutcheon's view is with the American people (of both political parties). Turns out their view is also unsupported by Supreme Court precedent, which is a legal argument that will be made. So McCutcheon has problems both in the Court of Public Opinion and the Supreme Court.

  •  Thanks for posting. I wasn't aware of this (4+ / 0-)

    case, and see the devastation potential for democracy.

    So long as the bourgeoisie control the cultural institutions which define social reality, they will set the basic rules of debate and thereby control the range of possible outcomes. ~ Antonio Gramsci

    by 4Freedom on Tue Oct 01, 2013 at 02:31:37 PM PDT

  •  Yes, SCOTUS basically has blown a big hole ... (7+ / 0-)

    ... in campaign finance reform already. The next step won't be much of a leap for five members of this Court.

    It's a subject that has been tied up for decades in the rubric of "free speech", a mind-numbingly wrong-headed and misguided analytical framework to deal with the influence of money in elections.

    And a subject that cries out for deference to Congress, which this Court illustrates - shall we say? - selectively.

    2014 IS COMING. Build up the Senate. Win back the House : 17 seats. Plus!

    by TRPChicago on Tue Oct 01, 2013 at 02:31:56 PM PDT

  •  If it's the Court's intention (2+ / 0-)

    to follow a terrible decision for democracy with another even worse decision, to destroy democracy with money, they should be impeached. I'm stopping short of "hang the bastard majority on the steps of the SC," but just barely.
    They've brought the country into its death throes with all the dough via CU. We're gagging, choking on it and they know it and they like it. #wreckers

    "He went to Harvard, not Hogwarts." ~Wanda Sykes

    Blessinz of teh Ceiling Cat be apwn yu, srsly.

    by OleHippieChick on Tue Oct 01, 2013 at 02:35:30 PM PDT

  •  No, since it's been working so well for GOP... (0+ / 0-)
  •  What really bothers me (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ColoTim, Musial

    is that the DC District Court didn't just rule in favor of campaign finance limits and against the Republicans on this one, they granted the defendant's motion to dismiss the case entirely.  Talk about a whack-down.  And now the Supreme Court is taking it up again.

    •  No the case was teed up by movement conservatives (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      No one gets out alive

      just for this posture, the fix was in from the start including a fixed circut court. The question presented is purely political, whether elections will be a duel between billionaires or more broadly inclusive of the the rest of the 1%. This will be decided in favor of relaxation because money is speech, the more money the freer it gets. At some point activists will go abolitionist, that private money and unregulated private media have to go. Included in an abolitionist bill would be a new framework for unconstitutional decisions by the Court. Congress would become authorized to remonstrate to the Court that a decision was unconstitutional, which if the Court did not change the decision, would be referred to a national referendum. Judicial supremacy has been the flaw in the constitution when Congress does not police the powers boundary. The British system does not have a courts problem. Congress would legislate a test for determining which decisions were inherently legislative and therefore invasive of Congressional powers, could invoke a Congressional remonstrance, somewhat along the lines of Lincoln's test in his critique of Dred Scott. Americans forget that the civil war was fought because the North refused to accept Dred Scott as precedent. The problem was addressed by the progressives in 1912 in proposing the referendum, and this is the route to take. It isn't a matter of lining up an infinite number of proposed constitutional amendments correlated to an infinite number of unconstitutional decisions. Lincoln basically said 5 people cannot hijack a democracy, otherwise its not a democracy to begin with.

  •  Nicely done first diary...and welcome to (5+ / 0-)

    DKOS.

    Welcome from the DK Partners & Mentors Team. If you have any questions about how to participate here, you can learn more at the Knowledge Base or from the New Diarists Resources Diaries. Diaries labeled "Open Thread" are also great places to ask. We look forward to your contributions.

    The Americas greatest political dynasty...the Kaan

    by catilinus on Tue Oct 01, 2013 at 03:50:14 PM PDT

  •  First Amendment - money is speech (0+ / 0-)

    It seems like the people have a complete misunderstanding of the role of the Supreme Court and freedom of speech.

    The Court doesn't normally say "here is where we want the law to go, so we need to decide the case a certain way" and case's where a lot of people think that has happened - say the Dredd Scott case (slaves can be repatriated from the north back to the south) or Roe v. Wade (you might like the decision, but some seriously tortured legal reasoning) or Bush v. Gore.  I mean really, if that were the normal way things were done do you really believe Justice Roberts would have allowed ACA to stand?  

    What are political donations used for?  Hiring people to canvass neighborhoods, running issue ads, TV commercials, paying for rallies.  In short, it is the raw material to allow for political speech.  So restricting the money limits the amount of speech directly.  That's different than the "shouting fire" example where the speech is deemed to be dangerous.

    When you're setting a law infringing on a basic constitutional right the Court looks at it with a "Strict Review".  That means they look at 2 things - is the law absolutely necessary and is it written in such a way to infringe on the right effected as little as possible.  Here, I don't  think you can argue that restricting dollars that are directly used to distribute more political speech is constitutional.

    What you can say is that allowing Exxon, Walmart & Halliburton to dump unlimited $$$ into politics is bad for the country or unfair.  But, that isn't the standard used when reviewing these things.  Unfair perhaps, but that's the way law has been interpreted for 200 years and while it may cause some real problems, the alternative is giving nine unelected Judges free reign to overrule anything the Congress/President does on a whim.  The Republic survived Citizen's United, it will survive this if it comes to pass.

  •  Tax poly contributions; credit volunteer costs? (0+ / 0-)

    Should we propose heavy taxes on political contributions (and spending on independent political advertising)?

    One benefit would be forcing political spenders pay for more of the value of the influence they are buying.

    In order to eliminate or reduce the negative impact of this type of tax on volunteer-reliant campaigns that need to expend money on costs ancillary to volunteer activities, perhaps a certain per-volunteer amount of those types of expenditures could be credited to "adjust" (reduce) the amount of taxable "adjusted spending".

    Under the general principle of "taxing what you want less of", this approach could

    1. decrease political spending, notably on advertising, and

    2. increase political campaign's reliance on volunteers, with the side-benefit of incentivizing more hands-on involvement by citizens.

    Background includes the status of the federal taxing power as one power that seems limitless, under Roberts' opinion upholding the ACA penalty.

  •  GOP digging deep for wins... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Oh Mary Oh

    There is no better example of the desperation and angst in the Republican party right now as with these sideshows. Gerrymandering districts to retain their House majority -- check. Attacks on voting rights -- check. Funneling more money to political candidates for favors afterwards (I mean honestly, what sane person believes that a person willing to give millions of dollars to a political candidate or party will want nothing in return for that generosity) -- it's going to be a check once the Supremes get through with this case.

    This is the ultimate subversion of democracy. Sure a billionaire still only has one vote but campaigns don't survive by the votes they may get by election day. They run on money, and so do their advertising budgets and their disinformation campaigns.

    The one bright side of things -- soon there won't be many old-time Republicans left to vote for. They'll be replaced by Democrats or crazy-as-frack Teahadists in the not-so-distant future.

    The most dangerous... programs, from a movement conservative's point of view, are the ones that work the best and thereby legitimize the welfare state. Krugman

    by BasharH on Wed Oct 02, 2013 at 06:59:52 AM PDT

  •  In one answer (0+ / 0-)

    YES.

    -6.13 -4.4 Where are you? Take the Test!!!

    by MarciaJ720 on Wed Oct 02, 2013 at 09:03:38 AM PDT

  •  Why is the government closed? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    pvasileff, Oh Mary Oh

    Partly it is the SCOTUS free speech.  The 80 tea party House members come from gerrymandered white districts who voted 25% against Obama.  There is no risk to their job whatever they do in the House.  Each has billionaire anonymous sponsors thanks to the SCOTUS "free speech" Citizens United.  They have no problems with enough money to run a fake election.  The only limit is if they do not jump high enough for their masters they are quickly replaced or "primaried".  They keep the pretend democracy in place, but reality is the friends of the gang of 5 have control.  That is what this "free speech" case is all about.

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