The Supreme Court is Wrong on Campaign Finance

Ian Hutchinson | Unsplash

If recent years have taught us anything, it’s that our democracy is fragile and needs to be protected. But earlier this week, the Supreme Court did the opposite. The Court ruled on Monday in a case involving Texas Senator Ted Cruz that campaign donors should be allowed to replenish political candidates’ personal wealth after election campaigns have concluded.

This decision effectively opens politicians up to cash bribes during their terms. Allowing wealthy donors to add to the personal wealth of politicians will only further skew the playing field of electoral politics in favor of the rich.

One of the greatest problems with American politics today is that money equals influence. The more money you have, the more political power you have. Thanks to this Supreme Court ruling, that’s going to become more true – if a candidate can only run for office and be successful with the promise of future support from wealthy, powerful benefactors, we are just going to see one type of candidate thrive. This limits the diversity of experience and perspectives represented in our halls of government and gives the rich and powerful even more sway over how our laws are made

Millionaires and billionaires should not have the outsized political power they do now, and money should not equal speech. Until we pass significant campaign finance reform, they will continue to dictate that policies that favor them be instituted at the local, state, and federal level. We need laws that guarantee elected officials are representing the collective voice of the voters, not the select wishes of an elite, deep-pocketed few.

This week we’ll discuss how the Supreme Court decision on Federal Election Commission v. Ted Cruz for Senate is just one more way in which the law is designed to benefit rich political candidates and rich donors while increasing the influence of rich donors on elections.

The Supreme Court Just Streamlined the Process for Bribing Senators The Nation by John Nichols
Author John Nichols does a phenomenal job in this piece laying out both the technical aspects of the FEC vs. Cruz decision as well as the historical influence leading up to this decision by the Supreme Court, shining a light on a near-half-century-long onslaught against corruption protections in American politics. The dissenting opinion of the court calls out the decision that gives a green light to politicians soliciting wealthy donors, during their elected term, in order to get money to recoup their personal wealth. It doesn’t take a genius to see how this decision opens up politicians to deep corruption at the hands of the nation’s richest.

The Good That Ted Cruz’s Supreme Court Win Can Do – The Atlantic by Anand Giridharadas
The FEC vs. Cruz decision truly shines a spotlight on the abysmal state of campaign finance law in America. The last decade of assault, especially, has created a paradigm shift in the way wealthy individuals attempt to influence the electoral process. In recent years, billionaires have topped the financial donation charts. Wealthy mega-donors aren’t anything new, but in a post-FEC vs. Cruz America where it has been reiterated that money is equivalent to free speech, their donations will drown out the voice of the other 99% of Americans. In a world where politicians are bought and sold, this ruling, at least, makes it undeniably clear that we need reform, and now.

The Little Red Boxes Making a Mockery of Campaign Finance Laws – The New York Times by ​​Shane Goldmacher
Under the current law, politicians are barred from collaborating directly with their donors’ Super PACs to, for example, blatantly tell their supporters what to do or say to support them. Recently, however, politicians have found a workaround to this law by utilizing red-bordered boxes on their websites and other places to provide language that can be ripped directly by donors and used in their ads. This is clearly contrary to the spirit of the law, but without more effective enforcement and more aggressive laws, this kind of direct coordination will continue to occur. There is truly no limit to the lengths politicians will go to to ensure they make use of every dime rich people have to offer them.

Democrats pounce on latest tax perk for the rich: falling audit rates – The Hill  by Letters to the Editor
With the IRS burdened with 39 million unprocessed or pending tax returns, they have been on the receiving end of a lot of grief – both from taxpayers and from politicians.  The U.S. government’s inability to do its job has been a growing problem for decades, but in its current state, the IRS is plainly incapable of properly identifying and punishing tax evaders. As a recent report from the Treasury Department revealed, it has become clear that wealthy Americans are currently able to get away with an incredible amount of tax evasion, and because the IRS doesn’t have the funding to go after rich people with complicated finances, they audit poor people at a higher rate. Democrats are taking this opportunity to call out the unequal audit system the IRS uses.

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