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SCOTUS, McCutcheon v. FEC, and corruption

SCOTUS, McCutcheon v. FEC, and corruption

The Supreme Court ruled today to eliminate the caps on total federal campaign contributions from individuals. The vote was the very familiar 5-4 margin:

Wednesday’s decision in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission…did not affect familiar base limits on contributions from individuals to candidates, currently $2,600 per candidate in primary and general elections. But it said that overall limits of $48,600 by individuals every two years for contributions to all federal candidates violated the First Amendment, as did separate aggregate limits on contributions to political party committees, currently $74,600…

…The decision chipped away at the central distinction drawn by the Supreme Court in its seminal 1976 campaign finance decision, Buckley v. Valeo. Independent spending, the court said in Buckley, is political speech protected by the First Amendment. But contributions may be capped, the court said then, in the name of preventing corruption.

In terms of liberty for individuals it seems the correct decision. But leaving aside for a moment the dubiousness of asserting that the capping of campaign contributions actually “prevents corruption” at all (I maintain that where there’s a will to be corrupt, there’s a way), it seems nearly as arbitrary to limit those contributions to $2,600 per candidate as to limit them to $48,600 total every two years. And why one party versus another would be squawking (Democrats) about this decision I don’t know—except of course as all-important theater (“we’re for the little guy, and against corruption”). In fact, there are plenty of rich and mega-rich individuals on both sides that will take advantage of it. Corruption and the buying of candidates for favors will continue apace—as it probably always has, laws or no.

Corruption and power go hand and hand, and the best we can do to prevent the combination in our elected officials is to have an educated and aware populace willing to reject the corrupt (good luck, you say). The other way to reduce corruption would be to limit the power of those elected officials, which would involve limiting the power of government itself.

Even that doesn’t stop corruption, of course; the most it probably does is to reduce it in the public sphere a bit and leave it more to the private sphere. Perhaps it merely shifts the balance, which leaves us with the following question: which is worse, public or private corruption? I maintain it’s the former, because the power of the government is greater. On the other hand, we can (at least theoretically) vote the bums out.

[Neo-neocon is a writer with degrees in law and family therapy, who blogs at neo-neocon.]


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“Independent spending, the court said in Buckley, is political speech protected by the First Amendment.”

By the same thinking, then, is my independent political (including religious) free speech spending being denied me or limited when I am mandated to buy into Obamacare or otherwise pay a fine?

Also, what if I as a corporation wanted to spend my money, my “independent spending” of my political free speech, lobbying against abortifacients and not promote and provide Obamcare (and its million-dollar fixes)one iota?

The reason for the Democrats’ unhappiness is simple.

When the Koch Brothers come in 19th in total contributions behind 18 Democrat-friendly unions, this decision will not help the Democrats maintain their edge with money.

On the other hand though, I believe there is a limit to what money can do. There is a saturation point when the endless drone of campaign commercials causes people to notice who is interrupting their lives with useless clutter, and not vote for them.

    MaggotAtBroadAndWall in reply to Neo. | April 3, 2014 at 12:32 pm

    You make two good points that are related. Money is absolutely essential to run a campaign, but it can’t buy an election. Examples: Meg Whitman spent $177 million in her gubernatorial campaign compared to Jerry Brown who spent about $36 million. Guess which one gets to be called governor? Carly Fiorina outspent Barbara Boxer by a big amount, too, and still lost. And Sheldon Adleson spent around $100 million in his failed attempt to try to first get Newt Gingrich nominated and then Mitt Romney elected in 2012.

    Now lets look at someone else who spent heavily on politics but learned from his failures: George Soros. He teamed up with fellow billionaires Peter Lewis and Herb & Marion Sandler to try to buy the 2004 presidential election and remove GWB from office. I’ve seen estimates that between the three of them and their foundations, they spent at least $150 million in a failed attempt to unseat GWB in 2004. But here’s the thing. After they failed they created a super coalition of other super wealthy progressive Democrats, the Democracy Alliance. The intent was to build a progressive infrastructure whose goal was to educate and persuade average voters about progressive ideals. From that sprang MoveOn, Media Matters, Center for American Progress, etc. Of course, they don’t really persuade much about progressivism but instead they stoke hatred for conservatism. But the goal was supposed to be about advancing progressive ideals.

    I don’t think very many people appreciate how much influence Soros has in all aspects of mainstream journalism.

    Andrew Breitbart used to say that politics follows culture. Soros and other wealthy progressives have decided to spend less money on political races each cycle and focus more of their money on influencing the culture. They’re playing the long game. The politics will follow.

The reason Democrats are complaining about the lifting of these (completely arbitrary and pointless) limits is because Republicans will benefit more from the change. Democrats have the unions giving not only huge money but huge in-kind contributions (having members staff phone banks, for example), so they are less in need of larger individual donations and will see less benefit from then.

The limits never had anything to do with corruption. No one but John McCain is stupid enough to believe that. It was more about protecting incumbents from well financed opponents.

When campaign donations are criminalized, only criminals will get campaign donations.

“Collective” is a straight-up totalitarian concept. If they could, all liberals, on the Court (Breyer will lead the charge), in Congress (Democrats generally), would do away with the limits imposed by the Constitution. To them,

“Tutto nello Stato, niente al di fuori dello Stato, nulla contro lo Stato” (“Everything in the State, nothing outside the State, nothing against the State”)

In the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) (1948) you can read about all the wonderful “rights” declared as, well, as universal, applying at all times, in all places. Including the right for free speech (its ARTICLE 19). Really, it’s a really nice exercise leafing through them, what with all the highfalutin verbiage and whatnot. But, and here’s the kicker, be sure to follow the first and most important rule of statutory construction – read the whole statute.

There, in UDHR’s Article 29 you’ll find the pen of Justice Breyer (and Kagan and Ginsburg and Sotomayor and the Democrat Party),
“(2) In the exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society.”

That Article with its “by law” trick is a playground for any totalitarian government. In the non-Framers approach to government (embraced fully by Breyer et alia) then, government “gives,” but government can take away, and still be within compliance with the UDHR by simply referring to and relying upon Article 29 and its ability to protect the collective through the “by law” tactic. If a “right’ can be taken away, then no right ever existed. No counterpart of Article 29 exists in the US Constitution.

This “by law” trick is found in all the leftist documents and treaties (so-called) that have come out of the UN, the EU, the old USSR, and the new Russia. Islam, because it too is a 100% leftist ideology, follows suit. [While Muslims have expressly rejected the 1948 UDHR, they have fashioned their own version, called the Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam (1991). All over that document the “by law” trick is played, with the referenced “law” being the Shari’ah (its ARTICLE 25 chillingly reads, “The Islamic Shari’ah is the only source of reference for the explanation or clarification of any of the articles of this Declaration.”)]

Recall that our Declaration of Independence states the sole purpose of American government was to protect / guard individual rights; that is to say that rights that existed before any government ever came into being. “That to secure these rights [that is, the already-existing rights of individuals], Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed [i.e., those same individuals]”

    Bruce Hayden in reply to pfg. | April 3, 2014 at 12:39 pm

    I think this is an important point. Justice Breyer really made clear the division here between viewing the 1st Amdt as an individual right and as a collective or community right. He is obviously on the community/collective right side, justifying depriving individual’s free speech to benefit the community. For one thing, a community rights approach justifies trading off individual rights for the community good, and a type of weighing of interests that cannot be justified under strict (or even intermediate) scrutiny.

which is worse, public or private corruption?

What is “private corruption”? What does that actually mean?

    Ragspierre in reply to tom swift. | April 3, 2014 at 3:15 pm

    C’mon, tom…

    There are multiple examples of “private corruption”, from embezzlement to defrauding one’s own marital estate to dumping pollutants on land or in the water to keep from meeting the cost of conversion or disposal.

    Certainly you recognize these.

The left are, as always, hypocrites. Complaining about “money in politics” while ignoring Soros, Gates, and Buffet is amazing chutzpah.

Waiting for former used car salesman Chuckie “Cheese” Schumer and Harry (am I still breathing) Reid to complain about all of the union money in politics. No I am not holding my breath.

The Progressives are assuming that they can make political hay out of this ruling, but their assumptions suppose that there are more rich Republicans than there are rich Democrats.

If Barack Obama and Bill Clinton have proven anything, it’s that there are plenty of rich Democrats, too.

    randian in reply to Neo. | April 3, 2014 at 5:29 pm

    It’s more like rich Democrats are simply invisible to them. “Rich is evil”, so long as you conveniently exclude Democrats from your definition of “rich”.