Tag Archives: right to express

Can elections work as auctions?

The ethical and legal lines of campaign financing have been danced around for decades.  The Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971, amended in 1974, was a major turning point in ending the monetary free-for-all that was public and private donations to political campaigns.  By creating the Federal Election Commission (FEC), which imposed contribution and spending limits, the Act provided a basis for distinguishing between acceptable and unacceptable giving.  Only two years later, in Buckley v. Valeo, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the limitations on contributions to candidates for federal office while at the same time declaring a $1,000 limit on independent expenditures unconstitutional.  The Supreme Court revisited this issue many times, opening loopholes and creating more room for larger donations and Super PACs to take shape.  Recently, in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission (FEC), wealthy businessman Shaun McCutcheon wanted to give a symbolic $1,776 to each of 28 Republican candidates for Congress in 2012.  Going back to Buckley v. Valeo, Watergate, and many other federal limitations established in this time, he could only donate to 16 of the 28 before the case was opened.  In a 5-4 decision, the Court struck down many caps and reopened the floodgates so that individuals were now allowed to donate as much as they pleased.  

In a government of the people, by the people, for the people, should financing caps be put in place or should an individual’s money be a critical tool of democracy?  Possibly the most crucial aspect of the First Amendment is the guaranteed freedom of speech, which protects the citizens right to express themselves any way they choose.  Money is a form of expression, most certainly in the United States.  Capitalism runs on freedom of expression of the customer, which furthers competition and eventually progress.  As put by Chief Justice John Roberts in explanation of the McCutcheon decision and how money plays a role in our elections, “There is no right more basic in our democracy, than the right to participate in electing our political leaders.”  He also commented that the First Amendment freedom-of-speech guarantee includes the right to endorse political candidates, and that to “restrict the political participation of some in order to enhance the relative influence of others” would be unconstitutional.  McCutcheon v. FEC was the closest decision that the Supreme Court could make, and the other side also leaves plenty to think about.  The four Supreme Court Justices voting for the FEC explained that campaign contribution limits have the sole purpose of cutting down quid pro quo corruption, where candidates receive cash from donors in an exchange for an under the rug “I’ll do this for you in office.”

Taken from the context within it was written, campaign donations should not have a cap.  So long as they come from actual people, supporting your personal prefered campaign ideology should come with no limit.

 

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