This past week, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the McCutcheon vs. Federal Election Commission. The focal point of this case is aggregate contribution limits. Aggregate limits are caps on how much an individual can contribute every two years. Not just to one candidate, but how much period. (In case you were wondering the current limit is $48,600 to federal candidates, more than the median income in Montana for just a touch of perspective.) Some poor dude in Arkansas (McCutcheon) is butt hurt because he was only able to donate to 16 congressional candidates. He could have supported so many more, cause ya know, he is pretty loaded…
In every campaign finance case before the Roberts Supreme Court, some part of campaign finance regulations have been struck down. And honestly I would be shocked if this case was the exception. If aggregate limits are struck down by our friends the Supremes, as a violation of free speech, this would of course lay the groundwork for further attacks against campaign finance laws. Moreover, a decision in favor of McCutcheon could be interpreted to broadly eliminate campaign finance regulation, opening up federal elections to unlimited money.
What I am really surprised by is the silence in Montana about this case. Montana has been at the forefront of battle of money in politics, and we’ve been there since the early 1900s and the days of Copper King corruption*. Voters overwhelmingly supported a citizen’s initiative to overturn Citizen’s United (well… at least to show support for it being overturned, problem with toothless resolutions.) So where is the discussion about McCutcheon?
I’m partly to blame for this. I have a platform, albeit a neglected one, here and I have not talked about it (or anything for that matter, sorry guys!). There is a lot going down right now; government shutdown, crappy judges, a US Senate race that finally has some life in it, and oh yeah the country may go into default. But we need to be talking about the impacts of corruption, and what that means for our future. Every election cycle means more and more money being spent, at the same time income inequality is increasing at significant rates. If the good old Supremes side with McCutcheon, fair elections will take another giant step backwards.
History has shown, time and time again that unlimited money added to politics equals corruption. When will sanity be restored?
*Side note– The Butte Copper Kings and the corruption of the early 1900s is one of the rare negative things I will ever mention about my beloved hometown.