Can we stop Citizens United before the next election? The decision, handed down in January 2010 by the court’s five conservative justices, broadly gave corporations the same free speech rights as people and destroyed the 2002 McCain-Feingold campaign finance law. Now corporations are seeking to have absolutely no limits on the amount of money they can spend on our elections.
The Supreme Court will be hearing the McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, case.Slate reports, “If the government loses big, it could mark the beginning of the end of any limits on campaign contributions given directly to candidates in federal, state, and local elections.” Alabama politician, Sean McCutcheon will be challenging aggregate, two-year caps on direct donations to parties or candidates.
However, if the government loses, cap limits will no longer matter. The last election found both parties raising more than one billion dollars each in campaign funds. If the Republicans have their way here, the gap between the candidate and how much money the candidate can receive, will no longer exist. Multimillion-dollar checks will become even more common-place than they were in the last election.
This fight is not about how much money one may contribute to a candidate, but about the constitutionality of the contributions themselves. So why isn’t that the issue here?Columbia Law School professor Richard Briffault said “I suppose the worst-case scenario is that … the court goes past the questions presented and tackles a more fundamental question – in this case, the Constitutionality of contribution limits.”
Justices Scalia and Thomas have already said that they thought contribution limits were unconstitutional. However, it is much more convenient for the Justices to talk about something that has already been decided than the Constitutionality of Citizens United.
Appeals court judge Janice Rogers Brown, a libertarian, already directed McCutcheon in the direction of the Supreme Court when she shot down his aggregate cap argument.
Instead of arguing the case for whether Citizens United is constitutional, the argument will be about how much higher the cap-limits will be. Tomorrow will be the first time since 2010 that the Court will have a chance to ease up on contribution limits. Let us not forget that any amount is legal as long as it goes through a super-PAC.
As long as we have this right-wing majority in the Supreme Court, we can expect to have runaway spending on politicians by the super rich. They almost bought the last presidential election. If the court favors no aggregate limits on campaign spending tomorrow, we can expect the next election will be bought by the rich.
Until we see big changes in the way our Supreme Court justices are chosen and the length of time they are in the Court, nothing will change. The right will stay vigilant to make sure it stays that way.
Richard Andrew is a guest blogger for Ring of Fire.