The United States Supreme this week struck down a federal law capping the total amount any individual can contribute to federal candidates in a two-year election cycle.

The ruling is much broader than just the elimination of this particular cap on donations.  Combined with the Citizens United decision, the Supreme Court is essentially saying that the Constitution prohibits practically all efforts to restrict the role of money in politics in the form of limiting campaign contributions.

We aren’t willing to go as far as one candidate did, suggesting that this is the worst Supreme Court decisions since Dred Scott, but suffice it to say that we aren’t too pleased that the Roberts Court is willing to ignore both precedent and the obvious dangerous role of money in politics.

The key to understanding the McCutcheon decision is understanding that, in the view of the Chief Justice, campaign contributions made in the hope of gaining influence and access does not constitute corruption.  Instead, the Court believes that influence and access exemplify “a central feature of democracy—that constituents support candidates who share their beliefs and interests, and candidates who are elected can be expected to be responsive to those concerns.”

So what does this mean for Ohio’s campaign finance laws?

“What laws?” some may ask.  Good question. Ohio’s campaign finance laws are, at best, on life support.

The Secretary of State’s Office had produced this handy chart outlining the current contribution limits under Ohio law:

CampaignLimitsChart

 

Now, that chart is probably ancient history.

Here is the new chart:

NewChart

While the decision did not directly impact the limitations on donations to individual campaigns, the Court clearly signaled that limits on donations to political parties and candidates likely unconstitutionaly restrict free speech.  This includes limits imposed both by the State and Federal Governments.

Our Supreme Court expert explains, “By narrowly focusing on quid pro quo deals, what we call bribery, as the only constitutional justification for limits on donations, the Court is saying loudly that five Justices believe that there is no constitutional justification for preventing a rich donor from giving unlimited contributions to one or many candidates.  I think if someone brought a challenge today to Ohio’s campaign contribution limits, they would almost certainly win.”

But this is all good because it promotes free speech, right?  We ask sarcastically: what could possibly go wrong in the Ohio Legislature if a handful of people can give millions of dollars to individual candidates?

Evangelize!
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  • fry1laurie

    This is “Animal Farm” democracy. “All speech is equal, but some are more equal than others.”

  • Paula Garfield

    So the more money you contribute, the more influence you have. Clearly, the term, “bought,” candidates speaks louder than democracy and justice for all citizens of the USA.

  • SlapFat

    There is no integrity on the Roberts’ Supreme Court among the five that struck down this cap on contributions. They are fools with no capacity to reason and even less with which to judge.

  • Guest

    NEWS RELEASE
    Supreme Court Ruling Will Further Drown Out Political Voices of Majority
    Contacts:
    Michael Greenman, 614, 439, 4768, mgreenmanoh@gmail.com
    Greg Coleridge, 216-255-2184, gcoleridge@afsc.org

    The Supreme Court’s controversial 5-4 McCutcheon vs FEC Supreme Court ruling today, which expanded the legal limit of political contributions to political candidates and parties, will further drown out the voices of a majority of people in the United States, according to two Ohio-based groups working on fundamental political reform.

    Spokespersons for the Move to Amend Ohio Campaign and Northeast Ohio American Friends Service Committee asserted that the McCutcheon decision, which expanded the aggregate contribution limit from a single individual to candidates and parties from $123,000 to $5.9 million per election cycle, was a blow to people in Ohio and across the nation without money who already have difficulty having their voices heard, needs met and communities helped.

    The decision was based on the existing constitutional doctrine that “money equals speech,” established in an earlier 1976 Supreme Court decision, which was also criticized by the political reform advocates.

    “Money is not speech, but property. If money equals speech, then those who have the most money have the most speech,” said Greg Coleridge, Director of the Northeast Ohio American Friends Service Committee, a Quaker social action organization that has worked for democratic reform for nearly two decades. “That’s not a recipe for democracy, but of plutocracy or rule by the wealthy, which is sadly the direction our nation is headed – all the more swiftly following the McCutcheon decision.”

    “The fact that a small number of very wealthy political donors felt constrained or restricted by only being able to contribute $123,000 to political candidates and campaigns over an election cycle shows how distorted our political system has become,” said Michael Greenman of the Move to Amend Ohio Campaign, the state affiliate of the national campaign seeking a constitutional amendment to end the doctrines that money equals speech and corporations are persons. “Has more money in our political system coming from fewer people over the last several years translated into a more robust democracy? Just the opposite.”

    “The majority of the court’s conclusion that the decision won’t result in political corruption or even the appearance of corruption counters the views of a plurality of citizens in our nation who already believe that our political system is tilted to benefit corporations and the super wealthy,” said Coleridge

    “The Citizens United vs FEC 2010 decision along with the McCutcheon decision today reinforces the need for fundamental political reform that would balance the political landscape and help create real democracy. That reform is the Move to Amend Constitutional Amendment, which has been supported by more that 500 communities across the nation through city council resolutions and grassroots citizen initiatives,” said Greenman.

    Move to Amend resolutions have been passed in Ohio by the city councils of Athens, Oberlin, Fremont and Barberton. In addition, Move to Amend supporters in the state have passed citizen initiatives in Brecksville, Cleveland Heights, Defiance and Newburgh Heights. Ohio Move to Amend activists are currently working on placing initiatives on the ballots this November in Toledo, Lakewood, Mentor and Newark.

    # 30 #

  • DemocracyinAkron

    Supreme Court Ruling Will Further Drown Out Political Voices of Majority
    NEWS RELEASE April 2, 2014
    Contacts:
    Michael Greenman, 614, 439, 4768, mgreenmanoh@gmail.com
    Greg Coleridge, 216-255-2184, gcoleridge@afsc.org

    The Supreme Court’s controversial 5-4 McCutcheon vs FEC Supreme Court ruling today, which expanded the legal limit of political contributions to political candidates and parties, will further drown out the voices of a majority of people in the United States, according to two Ohio-based groups working on fundamental political reform.

    Spokespersons for the Move to Amend Ohio Campaign and Northeast Ohio American Friends Service Committee asserted that the McCutcheon decision, which expanded the aggregate contribution limit from a single individual to candidates and parties from $123,000 to $5.9 million per election cycle, was a blow to people in Ohio and across the nation without money who already have difficulty having their voices heard, needs met and communities helped.

    The decision was based on the existing constitutional doctrine that “money equals speech,” established in an earlier 1976 Supreme Court decision, which was also criticized by the political reform advocates.

    “Money is not speech, but property. If money equals speech, then those who have the most money have the most speech,” said Greg Coleridge, Director of the Northeast Ohio American Friends Service Committee, a Quaker social action organization that has worked for democratic reform for nearly two decades. “That’s not a recipe for democracy, but of plutocracy or rule by the wealthy, which is sadly the direction our nation is headed – all the more swiftly following the McCutcheon decision.”

    “The fact that a small number of very wealthy political donors felt constrained or restricted by only being able to contribute $123,000 to political candidates and campaigns over an election cycle shows how distorted our political system has become,” said Michael Greenman of the Move to Amend Ohio Campaign, the state affiliate of the national campaign seeking a constitutional amendment to end the doctrines that money equals speech and corporations are persons. “Has more money in our political system coming from fewer people over the last several years translated into a more robust democracy? Just the opposite.”

    “The majority of the court’s conclusion that the decision won’t result in political corruption or even the appearance of corruption counters the views of a plurality of citizens in our nation who already believe that our political system is tilted to benefit corporations and the super wealthy,” said Coleridge

    “The Citizens United vs FEC 2010 decision along with the McCutcheon decision today reinforces the need for fundamental political reform that would balance the political landscape and help create real democracy. That reform is the Move to Amend Constitutional Amendment, which has been supported by more that 500 communities across the nation through city council resolutions and grassroots citizen initiatives,” said Greenman.

    Move to Amend resolutions have been passed in Ohio by the city councils of Athens, Oberlin, Fremont and Barberton. In addition, Move to Amend supporters in the state have passed citizen initiatives in Brecksville, Cleveland Heights, Defiance and Newburgh Heights. Ohio Move to Amend activists are currently working on placing initiatives on the ballots this November in Toledo, Lakewood, Mentor and Newark.

    # 30 #

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