Supremes’ Says Free Speech Trumps Campaign Finance Limits

Posted by Jack

WASHINGTON (CBS News/CBSDC/AP) — The Supreme Court has struck down limits in federal law on the overall campaign contributions the biggest individual donors may make to candidates, political parties and political action committees.

The justices said in a 5-4 vote Wednesday that Americans have a right to give the legal maximum to candidates for Congress and president, as well as to parties and PACs, without worrying that they will violate the law when they bump up against a limit on all contributions, set at $123,200 for 2013 and 2014. That includes a separate $48,600 cap on contributions to candidates.

The case, McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, did not call into question the maximum amount an individual can donate to a single candidate or political party in a two-year election cycle — those limits are $2,600 to a candidate, $32,400 to a national political party and $5,000 to a political committee.

Chief Justice John Roberts announced the decision, which split the court’s liberal and conservative justices. Roberts said the aggregate limits do not act to prevent corruption, the rationale the court has upheld as justifying contribution limits.

The overall limits “intrude without justification on a citizen’s ability to exercise ‘the most fundamental First Amendment activities,'” Roberts said, quoting from the court’s seminal 1976 campaign finance ruling in Buckley v. Valeo.

Justice Clarence Thomas agreed with the outcome of the case, but wrote separately to say that he would have gone further and wiped away all contribution limits.

Eliminating aggregate limits may now set the stage for striking down all contribution limits. “At that point, we would be back to the 19th Century and the Robber Baron era,” Wertheimer said, calling the court’s eventual decision in McCutcheon “potentially much more dangerous than the Citizens United decision.”

Fred Wertheimer, founder of the nonprofit Democracy 21, defended the limits, told CBS News’ Jan Crawford in October that the ability to financially influence effectively every race in the nation goes too far.

“The bottom line is you cannot allow individuals to give, and office holders to solicit, million-dollar and $2 million contributions without corrupting our political system and corrupting our democracy,” he said. “The Supreme Court has never said that contributions represent free speech that cannot be limited.”

Reaction to the ruling generally followed party lines, with advocates of capping money in politics aligned with Democrats in opposition to the decision.

For more on this story click here.

Note from Jack:  The only exception to this rule is when money can be clearly demonstrated to determine outcome.  When money becomes so onerous, limits may be applied.   It may be unclear to the Supremes, but it’s not to most voters.  Big money IS buying elections and big money IS buying legislation every day across America.

The San Jose Mercury Newspaper won a Pulitzer Prize for exposing campaign contributions are linked directly lawmakers decisions to propose special interest legislation.  Thus the term….”follow the money” came into vogue.

Once again, one Judge has decided the fate of millions of voters who wanted to reform campaign finance and clean up politics.   5-4 votes like this recent ruling tell me that this issue is not over.

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15 Responses to Supremes’ Says Free Speech Trumps Campaign Finance Limits

  1. Thomas says:

    Let’s be honest that money comes with laws attached to it. Whether it is a democrat or republican they have to promise something to get the large donations.

    In my opinion democracy is gone. I would rather have elections funded by public funds. In today’s social media world we do not need to spend Billions. This money cycles through media and really could be a awesome laundering scheme.

    $5.00 per citizen would even do it. We do not need our lives polluted with political messages 24/7. Even the debates were pretty bad. When do the citizens get to ask questions, debate, and have a say?

    If you do not like public funds, anything can be suggested, just an idea.

    I actually find most Americans can be trusted to have intelligent conversations and solve problems. When do Americans say enough of the political system buyout.

  2. Chris says:

    “I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations which dare already to challenge our government to a trial by strength, and bid defiance to the laws of our country.” –Thomas Jefferson

  3. Tina says:

    Thomas that’s the game that has been played and the best way to get rid of the game is to pull the size of government way back. People in business and activist organizations are attempting to buy protection, gain favor, and control outcomes. some of it for survival and some of it to further an agenda.

    We don’t need thousands of pages of new regulations written every year and we certainly don’t need the federal government managing every tiny aspect of our lives.

    Power should reside with the people and through them at the state level. This way Americans can better arrange their lives according to their ideals. People will be able to see and contrast the result and can move if the state wherein they reside is inconsistent with their own ideals.

  4. Thomas says:

    I understand where you come from, however as I look around the states it is no different. Those politicians are bought out and pressing issues for their donors as well.

    It is a difficult time. I am exploring all answers but to think the states are ran any different is silly. Those who buy laws buy them at all levels. It is relatively cheap these days.

    I do not understand how Americans are putting up with this. It seems they pick their candidates from both parties and send us to the polls.

    I mean whoever Addleson picks as his main politician will never get my vote. For politicians to go to Vegas and try to say the right thing and prove they will make a return on his money for his personal interest which is at a minimum an admitted “get rid of online gambling” and “possible war with Iran for Israel” is absurd!

    We only know of this because it was reported…so what will the other candidates from either party promise at the meetings we do not hear about?

    When people say roll back government I usually hear them wanting to roll back protections for humans.

    Remember this country went through this before but this is on a Global level.

    I see no reason this ruling does not open the pod doors wide open for foreign money to further infiltrate the American Political system and for me that is National Security Issues ….

    It seems America is for sale and that we need to fix that before we reduce it to a quick sale cause it is easier to buy.

    Just my 2 cents. I agree we do not need thousands of pages of written regulation but remember we have a long history of lawyers writing law. It is like when software has so many fixes and additions you have to chuck the old version and rewrite the new one.

    The Constitution needs to be rewritten using the original intent of the original with modern updates such as the amendment in 1919 that released women as property of their husbands and allowed them the right to even sign a contract.

    That is a pretty tall order and almost impossible because then all the different groups want to tell all citizens they have to obey their religion, or non religion, or company rules…..ect

    I am hoping all citizens can take the issues of our rights by Constitution first. Both Political parties seem to sign off on many many abuses of our rights.

    Maybe during that process we can find a path to take back our country before it is too late.

    But make no mistake I trust no politician and will investigate any and every one of them before they get my vote. Too bad people will not vote for someone who does not collect all the money and has the media playing for them….But Americans seem to do as told anymore Sad Sad day In America

  5. Chris says:

    Interestingly, Thomas Jefferson insisted that every constitution should be rewritten every 19 years. Today the idea that our constitution should be rewritten is considered blasphemy and insulting to the founders. I must say the original (along with the Bill of Rights) is pretty dang good and I’m not surprised it’s the world’s longest surviving constitution. The built-in process of amendments has made rewriting the whole thing seem unnecessary. If you were to rewrite it, Thomas, what would you do differently?

  6. Tina says:

    Thomas: “…as I look around the states it is no different. Those politicians are bought out and pressing issues for their donors as well.”

    Politicians are not being held to a high enough standard…no argument there! The founders were wise to give only a little power to the federal government and more power to the people and the states. Federal laws are inescapable. When power resides in the states the people have more choices…they can vote with their feet. If enough people vote with their feet politicans will have added pressures due to the jobs and revenue losses. Also the people can notice policies that work. Right now there are states being run by Republicans that are doing a lot better than California or New York in terms of jobs and state budgets:

    Governor Rick Snyder from Michigan turned a dismal deficit into a surplus. He reversed a $1.5 billion deficit to a close $500 million surplus that will be spent into additional programs in the new budget on additional K-12 and college education spending of around 2 percent, public safety spending with 1,000 more police officers, and even avoiding furlough pay for union employees. He infuriated union bosses by making Michigan a right to work state prohibiting mandatory union membership, but is “prioritizing” public spending by helping many public employees that would have lost their jobs if it wasn’t for the surplus.

    Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker did something very similar in his own state changing a $3 billion deficit into a $300 million surplus. Even though his jobs numbers may not be as impressive, he is a leader at diminishing the encroaching influence of many powerful public unions around the state of Wisconsin. He earned his praise from conservative talking heads.

    However, successful stories are not just Midwestern. Governor Susana Martinez is sparking her own success in the state of New Mexico. After her popular speech at the Republican National Convention last year, Martinez is making a lot of improvements within her state. She lowered the corporate tax rate from 7.6 to 5.9 percent over five years along with many other tax cuts for small businesses, denied the access to driver’s license for illegal immigrants, and she eliminated the locomotive tax allowing for the building of a “$400 million hub” from Union Pacific Railroad. Martinez cut government spending by cutting down on the governor’s staff and attributes such as luxurious jets.

    Most Americans don’t mind paying reasonable taxes if they know their taxes are being spent wisely and well. These three examples show us that it is possible to get good governance from our politicians and that democrats and republicans can work together to the benefit of all citizens. theses politicians don’t need to rely as much on big donations to get elected; they can rely more on their good records.

    We have to figure out a way to better educate the people so they aren’t fooled by empty campaign promises and are less likely to re-elect rotten apples.

    Not all donations are corrupt or evil. If a big contributor makes his contribution because of his ideals rather than because he expects a favor I have no problem with it. There will be such contributions on either side.

    I’d be interested in the abuses of our laws that you believe Republicans engage in, if you don’t mind being more specific. since I argue from a right perspective I don’t need input about the left as much.

    I’m a religious person but I don’t expect anyone to live by my religious rules unless they have also been codified in our laws…like murder and theft etc. I prefer to argue my position on contentious social issues at the social level, changing hearts and minds, realizing morality about these things is personal and often none of my business. The Golden Rule has served me well.

    For a man that didn’t want a long discussion you’ve contributed a lot here, Thomas. I appreciate your taking the time.

  7. Tina says:

    If we can but prevent the government from wasting the labours of the people, under the pretence of taking care of them, they must become happy. ~ Thomas Jefferson

    A wise and frugal Government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, which shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government, and this is necessary to close the circlue of our felicities. ~ Thomas Jefferson

    Experience hath shewn, that even under the best forms of government those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny. ~ Thomas Jefferson

    It is incumbent on every generation to pay its own debts as it goes. A principle which if acted on would save one-half the wars of the world. ~ Thomas Jefferson

    Educate and inform the whole mass of the people… They are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty. ~ Thomas Jefferson

    Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom. ~ Thomas Jefferson

  8. Pie Guevara says:

    Up yours progressives, Democrats, and assorted socialists, communists, Marxists, statists, and anti-free speech lunatics that pack the ranks of the Democratic party.

    Charles G Koch on WSJ: I’m Fighting to Restore a Free Society

  9. Pie Guevara says:

    While the Koch brothers fight to restore a free society and supply the US with energy the darling of the left, George Soros, fights to legalize marijuana. Go figure.

  10. Tina says:

    If only that were all he was up to…lol!

  11. Pie Guevara says:

    Re #10 Tina: It could be that Soros is convinced that a stoned America is more easy to manipulate.

  12. Tina says:

    Hmmm…yes…and control!

  13. Chris says:

    Pie Guevara: “While the Koch brothers fight to restore a free society and supply the US with energy the darling of the left, George Soros, fights to legalize marijuana. Go figure.”

    Because, as we all know, nothing says “free society” like prohibition of a substance that is less dangerous than alcohol.

    Incoherent moron.

    • Post Scripts says:

      Chris… this is from LiveScience:

      Marijuana vs. Alcohol: Which Is Really Worse for Your Health?
      By Joseph Brownstein, Contributing writer | January 21, 2014 03:04pm ET

      The question of whether alcohol or marijuana is worse for health is being debated once again, this time, sparked by comments that President Barack Obama made in a recent interview with The New Yorker magazine.

      “As has been well documented, I smoked pot as a kid, and I view it as a bad habit and a vice, not very different from the cigarettes that I smoked as a young person up through a big chunk of my adult life,” Obama said during the interview. “I don’t think it is more dangerous than alcohol.”

      But how apt is the comparison between these substances? While both are intoxicants used recreationally, their legality, patterns of use and long-term effects on the body make the two drugs difficult to compare.

      Both alcohol consumption and pot smoking can take a toll on the body, showing both short- and long-term health effects, though alcohol has been linked to some 88,000 deaths per year, according to the CDC, while for a number of reasons those associated with marijuana use are harder to come by. And research into marijuana’s health effects is still in its infancy, compared with the rigorous studies looking at alcohol and human health.

      Short-term health consequences – Drinking too much alcohol can quickly kill a person. The inability to metabolize alcohol as quickly as it is consumed can lead to a buildup of alcohol in the brain that shuts down areas necessary for survival, such as those involved with heartbeat and respiration. [7 Ways Alcohol Affects Your Health]

      “You can die binge-drinking five minutes after you’ve been exposed to alcohol. That isn’t going to happen with marijuana,” said Ruben Baler, a health scientist at the National Institute on Drug Abuse. “The impact of marijuana use is much subtler.”

      (Of course, subtle effects don’t equate with no danger, as is the case with smoking cigarettes, which is linked with 440,000 deaths per year in the U.S.)

      Marijuana affects the cardiovascular system, increasing heart rate and blood pressure, but a person can’t fatally overdose on pot like they can with alcohol, Baler said.

      Alcohol is more likely than marijuana to interact with other drugs. The way that alcohol is metabolized, or broken down, in the body, is common to many drugs that are taken for a variety of conditions, said Gary Murray, acting director of the Division of Metabolism and Health Effects at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

      This means that for people taking drugs or medications while drinking, the alcohol can increase or decrease levels of the active drug in the body.

      “Those things can make it very hit and miss, whether you’re getting an active dose of a medication,” Murray said.

      Still, both drugs can affect health in indirect ways, too.

      Because marijuana can impair coordination and balance, there is the risk of hurting oneself, particularly if someone drives or chooses to have unprotected sex while their inhibitions are lowered, Baler said. These are two areas where people using marijuana could hurt themselves for the short and long term.

      Long-term health consequences – The long-term effects of drinking heavily are well known. “Excess alcohol is going to lead to very severe consequences, and chronic excess alcohol is the most likely to lead to a lot of threatening issues,” Murray said.

      Drinking can lead to alcoholic liver disease, which can progress to fibrosis of the liver, which in turn can potentially lead to liver cancer, Murray said.

      “I emphasize ‘can’ – it’s not even clear to the best scientists what are the triggers that allow that progression to happen,” he said, noting that why some people have a higher risk than others of developing liver disease from drinking is not understood medically or biochemically.

      Unlike alcohol, Baler said, the effects of chronic marijuana use are not as well established. Animal studies have indicated some possible impact on reproduction. Additionally, there is evidence marijuana can worsen psychiatric issues for people who are predisposed to them, or bring them on at a younger age. Finally, Baler said, because the drug is typically smoked, it can bring on bronchitis, coughing and chronic inflammation of the air passages.

      But while early studies showed some evidence linking marijuana to lung cancer, subsequent studies have debunked that association. Baler said it’s unclear why marijuana smoke does not have the same result as tobacco smoke on the lungs, but perhaps some beneficial compounds in the marijuana smoke cancel out the ill effects, or perhaps the other health habits of marijuana smokers are different from those of cigarette smokers.

      But cigarette smoking plays a complicated role in studying the impact of marijuana smoke, Baler said. Marijuana smokers tend to smoke much less than cigarette smokers, as some may smoke one joint a few times a week.

      “It’s a very tough epidemiological nut to break,” Baler said.

      Additionally, researchers looking to study long-term marijuana use have had difficulty in finding people who regularly smoke marijuana but don’t also smoke tobacco cigarettes. And the illegality of marijuana has also limited research in this field.

      For marijuana, much of the concern is with young people who use the drug, because the drug interferes with the development of the brain while it is still maturing, Baler said. [10 Facts Every Parent Should Know About Their Teen’s Brain]

      Smoking marijuana interferes with connections being made in the brain “at a time when the brain should be at a clear state of mind, and accumulating, memory and data and good experiences that should be laying out the foundation for the future,” Baler said.

      “How much you’re impaired depends on the person, and how much you smoke,” Baler said. Because some people are stoned a lot of the time, while others may use marijuana only on weekends, the health effects become difficult to generalize.

      “You’re cumulatively impairing your cognitive function. What’s going to be the ultimate result, nobody can say.”

      Benefits – There is no known medical use for consumed alcohol, but there are health benefits observed in moderate drinkers, including lower rates of cardiovascular disease and possibly fewer colds, Murray said.

      “We always counsel people to avoid drinking to excess, but moderate drinking is not something that’s very dangerous,” he said.

      As for marijuana, whose legalization for medical uses has been a matter of strong public policy debate for years, there is ample evidence that beneficial compounds can be found in the plant.

      “Researchers are working around the clock to try to identify the ingredients in marijuana that have potential,” to benefit human health, Baler said.

      Once such chemicals are in a pure form, and researchers understand their effects on the body, then they could be put in clinical trials for use in cancer, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, glaucoma and other diseases, he said.

      “There are segments of the population that want to bypass the entire process, grabbing this nugget of truth … and claiming smoking marijuana can be good for your health and have medical uses,” Baler said.

      Although for palliative care, he said, “that would be a different realm of medicine,” in which the goal is to drug a person so they do not feel pain.

      The year 2014 has brought with it the first legal sales of marijuana to people who aren’t using the drug for medical reasons in the United States since the 1930s, as voters in Colorado and Washington state brought about this policy change.

      Public health researchers have said studying rates of injuries, accidents, mental illness and teen use in the wake of the new laws will lead to a better understanding of marijuana’s public health effects.

      Follow us @livescience, Facebook& Google+. Original article on LiveScience.

  14. Chris says:

    Also, Pie: It took me ten seconds to discover that the Koch brothers also support marijuana legalization, so your point makes even less sense than I thought it did originally.

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