, Salem, MA

November 5, 2013

Letter: Citizens United undermines free speech

The Salem News

---- — To the editor:

Contrary to the Salem News’ Oct. 21 editorial (”A look at what others are saying”), the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. FEC and its likely decision in McCutcheon v. FEC, argued earlier this month, diminish Americans’ right to free speech and undermine constitutional system of government.

We can debate court decisions, election statistics and campaign contribution data, but the fact is the vast majority of people in Massachusetts and the country cannot afford to contribute tens of thousands of dollars to multiple candidates each year, and they’re disgusted by a system that allows a very few to do that.

At issue in McCutcheon are aggregate contribution limits, which cap contributions to political parties and candidates at $123,200. If the Supreme Court strikes down these limits (previously upheld as constitutional on multiple occasions), candidates and party leaders could solicit contributions of $3.6 million from one individual.

The aggregate limits serve at least two important functions. First, they prevent corruption by severing the direct link between big donors and officeholders. A few ultra-rich individuals financing political campaigns influence the policies the winning candidate will and will not pursue, as well as who will run in the first place.

Second, the limits defend the dwindling political influence of the more than 99 percent of Americans who cannot afford a $123,000 political contribution, let alone a $3.6 million one. Make no mistake; McCutcheon’s challenge is about further corrupting and distorting representative democracy by amplifying the voices of a select few and diluting the rights of the vast majority.

Pam Wilmo

Executive director

Common Cause Massachusetts

Janet Domenitz

Executive director