, Salem, MA

February 27, 2014

Letter: Campaign spending limits in peril

The Salem News

---- — To the editor:

Many Americans who care about the future of our country were stunned to learn of the Supreme Court decision in 2010 on the Citizens United case, which opened the floodgates of corporate money into politics. The court declared that, because corporations are considered “persons,” and money is equal to speech, corporations, like individuals, can contribute money to candidates, parties, committees and super PACS to influence elections.

Realizing the power of money to corrupt, Congress put a cap on political contributions after the Watergate scandal. The Supreme Court upheld the law in the 1976 Buckley v. Valeo decision. Currently, the limit is $123,200 during a two-year election cycle, including a $48,600 cap on aggregate candidate contributions ($2,600 per federal candidate). Super PACS, on the other hand, are allowed to accept unlimited and anonymous contributions, as long as they do not spend funds directly on campaigns.

However, even these limits could now be on the chopping block. Another case before the Supreme Court, McCutcheon (and the RNC) vs. FEC, could change all that. McCutcheon is a conservative billionaire from Alabama who was frustrated by his inability to spend his money on more candidates. If McCutcheon wins this case, an individual could donate a total of nearly $3.7 million to candidates and parties in an election cycle. The Supreme Court could also strike down the monetary caps themselves as a limit to free speech, a point Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is advocating in this case.

The broad argument might be summarized as follows: Limits on monetary spending in elections either impinge on the expression of free speech or help prevent our fragile democracy from being sold out to the highest bidders. As an American citizen, which side are you on?

Marie E. Hall

North Shore Move to Amend