Friday, October 11, 2013

Supreme Court at a crossroads on campaign funding limits

1. Supreme Court at a crossroads on campaign funding limits. (2013 October 8) LA Times.

2. Category of problem: Campaign funding

3. Level of problem: National level

4. The article concerns: McCutcheon v Federal Election Comission, a supreme court case with the potential to lift currently existing limits on individual donor contributions to political candidates.

5. Why this is important: If McCutcheon wins, the current financial restrictions on individual donor contributions to candidates will be abolished, allowing individuals to donate far more to political candidates than ever before and perhaps increasing the political influence of the wealthy.

6. My views on this issue/policy: I'm in favor of the current restrictions. It appears to me that the only people who could benefit from lifting the restrictions are the exorbitantly wealthy. The lower and middle class would not benefit from raising the restrictions in any foreseeable way, but could in fact be politically damaged if the restrictions were to be abolished. The influence of the wealthy on American politics has already been well-documented, despite Justice Scalia's claims that political corruption fueled by campaign finance seems, "fanciful to think".

Arguments for abolishing the restrictions are built on the premise that campaign contributions are a form of political speech, and to limit them is unconstitutional on the grounds of the First Amendment. If campaign contributions are defined as political speech, then indeed restricting them would be a violation of the first amendment. However, the supreme court has previously ruled that, based on the context of the speech in question, free speech can be limited as long as the limit is based on, "time, manner or place", as opposed to content. I feel that limiting individual campaign contributions is a limit on manner of speech, in an appropriate context, not an attempt to silence or disavow any one political belief. Thus, I don't feel that limits on campaign contributions are damaging the integrity and purpose of free speech.

To lift the restrictions would merely be an invitation to money fueled political corruption, a practice which has been further deepening the gap between the poor and the wealthy since its conception.

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