Supreme Court Ruling Gives Wealthy Individuals More Influence Over Elections
Common Cause Maryland’s Jennifer Bevan-Dangle says the 1% are the beneficiaries of the McCutcheon decision
JAISAL NOOR, TRNN PRODUCER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Jaisal Noor in Baltimore.
On Wednesday, the Supreme Court struck down overall campaign contribution limits for donors giving to candidates and parties. The closely watched McCutcheon decision found the limits violated the First Amendment rights of donors. The court was split on ideological lines in the decision. Writing in dissent, Justice Stephen Breyer wrote, quote, “If the court in Citizens United opened a door, today’s decision … [we fear will] open a floodgate.”
Now joining us to discuss this Jennifer Bevan-Dangel. She’s the executive director of Common Cause Maryland.
Thank you so much for joining us, Jennifer.
JENNIFER BEVAN-DANGEL, EXEC. DIR., COMMON CAUSE MARYLAND: My pleasure.
NOOR: So, Jennifer, just start off by giving us your reaction to the impact this decision will have on the country and Maryland.
BEVAN-DANGEL: We’re very concerned. “Floodgates” is certainly the best word for it, and especially here in Maryland. At the federal level, losing these aggregate limits will definitely impact Congress and how fundraising is done. But in Maryland, where our aggregate limit is currently just $10,000, losing that cap on overall political contributions is going to drastically change the face of politics in the state.
NOOR: And so, that reference that we just made was made to Citizens United. And this court has shown over the past several years that it’s going to keep, you know, cutting down these campaign contribution limits. What else can be done? ‘Cause we’re not going to get change through this current court. It’s going to keep, if anything, people fear, striking down more limits.
BEVAN-DANGEL: The Court continues to take us in the wrong direction. And you’re right: the one limit we have left is the individual limits, which could potentially be next. And what has to happen is that Congress has to act or the states have to call for a convention to get a new amendment on the Constitution making it clear that political spending is not a protected speech, that it’s a way to influence and buy power in our political system.
NOOR: Now, both political parties haven’t really taken this on and challenged it. And, in fact, in McCutcheon, the Republican Party was one of the plaintiffs on the Alabama activist McCutcheon’s side. So this has to happen outside of the two-party system, essentially.
BEVAN-DANGEL: It really does. And that’s why it does help that we have the avenue of a convention, where the states can call for reform if Congress won’t take action, because Congress has shown that it’s gridlocked and that it can’t respond to the very pressing problems that we’re facing.
But the people have to continue to be vocal. This is a case that will just cut back the people’s voice in our system even further. And we just have to continue to stand up and cry for change.
NOOR: And so, from some of the experts I’ve spoken to, they’ve said this route, this route of doing a constitutional convention, is more of a long-term strategy. What else can be done on the short-term to challenge these practices? And can states pass laws that will limit spending in federal elections and in state and local elections?
BEVAN-DANGEL: The [incompr.] their hands are tied, unfortunately. And within hours of the decision coming out [incompr.] the federal limits, within hours several states had proactively said, we will be eradicating our own state limits, because the decision is so clear that they just feel there’s no constitutional basis for these aggregate limits. So the states are already accepting the Supreme Court’s position and taking down their limits.
The one thing states can push for is greater disclosure and more immediate disclosure of political spending. Here in Maryland, candidates, except during the election year, only filed annual reports. So one step we might need to take is to require much more frequent reporting, so that the citizens can see if one individual is starting to put a lot of money into a lot of different bank accounts.
NOOR: And, finally, who is going to benefit from this decision?
BEVAN-DANGEL: The people who benefit will be that fraction of a 1 percent of wealthy individuals in this country who have the money to spend on elections. It’s like playing the stock market for very wealthy individuals. They just play the campaign market. And they can invest in as many races as they want at any level that they want, and there’s now nothing holding them back.
NOOR: Jennifer Bevan-Dangel, thank you so much for joining us.
BEVAN-DANGEL: Thank you.
NOOR: Jennifer is the executive director of Common Cause Maryland.
You can follow us on Twitter @therealnews, Tweet me questions and comments @jaisalnoor. You can go to TheRealNews.com for all of our coverage on campaign contributions and Citizens United.
Thank you so much for joining us.
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