High Court Gives Big Money More Say in Campaigns

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Supreme Court McCutcheon Campaign FinanceThe Supreme Court on Wednesday struck down overall campaign contribution limits. The law that the 5-4 ruling voided has prevented individuals from contributing more than $123,000 to candidates and party committees per election cycle. Sen. Bernie Sanders, who has proposed a constitutional amendment to restore the power of Congress and state lawmakers to limit campaign donations, blasted the ruling.“Freedom of speech, in my view, does not mean the freedom to buy the United States government,” Sanders said.

The ruling gives wealthy donors like the billionaires Charles and David Koch more power to influence elections. An earlier ruling in Citizens United vs. FEC resulted in a record $7 billion being spent in the 2012 election cycle, including at least $400 million by the Koch brothers alone. “What world are the five conservative Supreme Court justices living in?” Sanders asked. “To equate the ability of billionaires to buy elections with ‘freedom of speech’ is totally absurd. The Supreme Court is paving the way toward an oligarchic form of society in which a handful of billionaires like the Koch brothers and Sheldon Adelson will control our political process.”

At issue in the latest case was a limit on how much donors may give to all candidates and political organizations during a two-year federal election cycle. The cap now is $123,200. That includes a separate $48,600 limit on contributions to individual candidates during 2013 and 2014. A separate $2,600 limit on how much one individual may give to any specific candidate for Congress in any election is not directly at stake in this case.

The latest ruling comes on the heels of a disastrous 2010 Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United, which threw out campaign funding laws that limited what wealthy individuals and corporations could spend on elections. Since that ruling, campaign spending by Adelson, the Las Vegas casino magnate, the Koch brothers and a handful of other billionaire families has fundamentally undermined American democracy.

Sanders has proposed a constitutional amendment to overturn that ruling and make clear preventing quid pro quo corruption is not the only reason we should regulate campaign finance. His amendment and a companion measure in the House by Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.) would make it clear that the right to vote and the ability to make campaign contributions and expenditures belong only to real people.

Read Sanders’ essay on Democracy vs. Oligarchy

To read the constitutional amendment, click here.

For a fact sheet on the amendment, click here.