News / USA

Supreme Court Fuels Money Surge in US Politics

Supreme Court Rulings Fuel Financial Surge in U.S. Electionsi
X
Jim Malone
May 20, 2014 11:46 PM
Supreme Court's relaxing of campaign contribution restrictions has government watchdogs saying the additional donations increase the potential for corruption, as we hear from VOA National correspondent Jim Malone in Washington.
Supreme Court Rulings Fuel Financial Surge in U.S. Elections
The numbers are astounding.  According to the Federal Election Commission, nearly $7 billion was spent on the 2012 U.S. presidential election, and that includes spending by candidates, parties and outside groups.  During this year’s congressional campaign cycle, monitoring groups estimate about $2.6 billion will be spent on television advertising alone.
 
Recent Supreme Court decisions have also helped to open the money spigots even more.  The 2010 case known as Citizens United loosened restrictions on donations from corporations, labor unions and outside groups.  This year’s decision in McCutcheon v. FEC struck down many of the overall limits on campaign donations from individuals, opening up fresh avenues of contributions to even more members of Congress, challengers and political committees.

Both Supreme Court rulings came on five to four decisions, so the court remains sharply divided on issues of money and politics.  But for now, the more conservative view of Chief Justice John Roberts is carrying the day on the high court, suggesting that more stringent campaign finance laws are not likely to pass muster with the five-member conservative majority on the high court.  Of course, before that could happen, Congress would have to act to retighten campaign finance laws and there is no sign of that happening anytime soon.
 
Fears of corruption

Political watchdog groups are watching the expansion of campaign donations with growing concern.  Sheila Krumholz is the executive director of The Center for Responsive Politics in Washington, a nonpartisan research group that tracks campaign spending and the influence of money in politics.  “The central tension is between freedom of speech and fear of corruption, or the appearance of corruption”, she says.   “We don’t want to censor anyone from being able to speak their mind and use their money in some ways.  On the other hand, if you use a lot of money and depending on its source, it could have a corrupting influence.”
 
Krumholz says it is clear that the current Supreme Court values “speech” in the form of campaign contributions more than concerns about corruption.  She says the court decisions in recent years have strengthened the hand of wealthy political contributors and outside groups that wish to donate money, feeding the notion that those with the most money “speak loudest.”
 
Money equals speech

Supporters of the recent Supreme Court rulings expanding the rights of political contributors have a far different take.  Conservatives have long equated the right to freely give campaign contributions with free speech.  They chafed for years as a steady stream of campaign finance laws went on the books, which in their view restricted the right of individuals to make themselves heard in the political market place.
 
“Basically money helps people speak.  So yes, money isn’t speech, but money helps buy speech,” says David Keating, president of The Center for Competitive Politics, a group that seeks to expand First Amendment rights to free expression.  “People ought to be able to spend whatever they want saying what they want to other people in the United States and then let the voters decide.”  Keating believes the government should get out of the business of trying to regulate campaign contributions altogether.  “The bigger danger is letting the people who are in the government decide what people are allowed to say about the government.”
 
The debate has played out at times in the halls of Congress.  Not long ago in an exchange on the Senate floor, Senator Democratic leader Harry Reid went toe-to-toe with his Republican counterpart, Senator Mitch McConnell.  Reid has spent a lot of time thundering against conservative billionaires Charles and David Koch, major players in funding of conservative candidates and causes.   “The founders believed in a democracy where every American had a voice and a vote,” Reid argued recently, trying to get voters to focus on campaign finance as an issue in this year’s elections.
 
But Senator McConnell fired back that all Americans regardless of their economic status should have the right to express themselves in election spending, no matter which side of the political aisle they happen to sit on.  “There are many wealthy Americans who feel deeply about the country, who are committed to one side or the other, who are trying to have an impact on the country, as many on the left as on the right.”  Republicans often counter attacks aimed at the Koch brothers by citing wealthy liberal activists like George Soros and Tom Steyer.
 
Fears of another scandal

Reform advocates acknowledge that the exploding money chase is bipartisan in nature.  “Money ultimately speaks and in many cases money speaks loudest and it doesn’t matter what side of the aisle you are on both parties are complicit in this process,” says Sheila Krumholz.  But she argues that doesn’t make it any less of a threat in terms of the potential for abuse and corruption.  She fears a return to the kinds of campaign abuses that came to light during the Watergate scandal of the 1970’s when bags of money were secretly handed over to political campaigns with an understanding that the contributors would be taken care of down the line.
 
Krumholz also worries that with Congress deadlocked on the issue and the Supreme Court not open to further reform, voters will be left with the impression that government is simply unwilling or unable to address the problem.  “I think until we have that kind of open, honest dialogue it is going to take a scandal to make us confront this problem.”  She also says the voters are ultimately responsible for pushing the issue.  “We own them.  They work for us.  So we need to be better managers of our government.  It’s our government and if it’s broken, who’s responsible?  We are.”

You May Like

Video Analysts: Beijing Parade a 'Bazaar' of Stolen Technology

Show commemorating victory over Japan in World War II involved long, medium and short range missiles, a range of tanks and 200 fighter aircraft More

Bernie Sanders Surge Reflects US Shift on Socialism

Although most analysts say it is unlikely he will get the Democratic nomination, Sanders' campaign opens up questions and issues that are otherwise marginalized More

Video On IS Frontline, Kurdish Fighters Ready for Offensive

Peshmerga soldiers say although they need more heavy artillery, they are poised to take the fight to the Islamic State extremists on their turf More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: larry from: US
May 26, 2014 4:25 PM
This should show you all just how corrupt the govt is, including the supreme court justices. This whole "no cap on election funding" absolutely makes elections 100% unfair. This guarantees that the little man has no chance of being heard. All the big corporations, and the banks have to do is pump literally BILLIONS into the candidate they choose, and viola you have yet another corporate shoe-in who will do the big businesses bidding. That is the EXACT reason why our country lost over 2 million jobs to china. As soon as bill clinton got elected, he introduced China into the world free trade agreement and all of the good high paying jobs quickly moved over to china, as well as all the factories. This will continue thanks to these supreme court justices.

by: Cranksy from: USA
May 21, 2014 12:15 AM
"If money equals speech, speech isn't free" was a message I saw on a placard at a political rally. Please spread the word.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Drowned Migrant Toddler Photo Triggers European Outragei
X
Henry Ridgwell
September 04, 2015 11:36 AM
The harrowing picture of a drowned three-year-old Syrian boy washed up on a Turkish beach appears to have galvanized Europe’s leaders into doing more to address the refugee crisis. France, Germany and Italy issued a joint call Thursday for compulsory quotas of refugees for all EU states. But there were chaotic scenes in Hungary as police tried to force migrants off a train heading for Austria. Henry Ridgwell has more. And a caution, some of the images in this report may be disturbing.
Video

Video Drowned Migrant Toddler Photo Triggers European Outrage

The harrowing picture of a drowned three-year-old Syrian boy washed up on a Turkish beach appears to have galvanized Europe’s leaders into doing more to address the refugee crisis. France, Germany and Italy issued a joint call Thursday for compulsory quotas of refugees for all EU states. But there were chaotic scenes in Hungary as police tried to force migrants off a train heading for Austria. Henry Ridgwell has more. And a caution, some of the images in this report may be disturbing.
Video

Video Russians Observe 11th Anniversary of Beslan School Attack

This week, Russians have been observing the 11th anniversary of the attack by Islamic militants on a school in Russia's North Caucasus region that killed more than 330 hostages, including 186 children. The three-day siege and massacre that started on September 1, 2004 took place in Beslan, a town in the republic of North Ossetia, and is one of the bloodiest terrorist acts ever in Russia. VOA's Mike Richman reports.
Video

Video Native Americans Debate: Father Serra, Saint or Sinner?

Pope Francis will canonize an 18th century missionary to Spanish California during a papal visit to the United States this month.  But some Native Americans have criticized the elevation to sainthood of the missionary priest, Junipero Serra. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan has more from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Calais School Offers Another Face of Europe’s Migrant Crisis

Europe is facing mounting criticism over how it’s handling its biggest migration crisis since World War II. But not all Europeans believe building walls or passing repressive policies are the answer. A school for migrants in the French port city of Calais, is opening doors and building bonds across nationalities. VOA's Lisa Bryant reports.
Video

Video Kurdish Fighters on IS Frontline Ready for Offensive

Finger on the trigger, the Kurdish Peshmerga soldier stared across the dust at a village taken over by Islamic State extremists. The Kurdistan’s Khazir frontline, just 45 minutes from the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul. And at this point, the militants were less than two kilometers away. VOA's Sharon Behn reports.
Video

Video China Announces Troop Cuts at WWII Parade

Chinese President Xi Jinping Thursday announced plans to cut the world’s largest military force by 300,000 troops. The announcement was made during a massive military parade to commemorate victory over Japan in World War II. The event was shunned by most Western leaders and for some is raising fresh concerns about China’s military ambitions. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video Russia-Japan Relations Cool as Putin Visits China for WWII Anniversary

Russian President Vladimir Putin is in Beijing for commemorations of the 70th anniversary of China's WWII victory over Japan. Putin is expected to visit Japan later this year, but tensions between Tokyo and Moscow over islands disputed since the war, and sanctions over Ukraine, could pour cold water on the plan. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Yemen ‘on Brink of Disaster’ as Medical Shortages Soar

Aid agencies warn Yemen is on the brink of humanitarian disaster – with up to half a million children facing severe malnutrition, and hospitals running out of basic medicines. There are fears Yemen's civil war could escalate as the coalition led by Saudi Arabia tries to drive back Houthi rebels, who seized control of much of the country earlier this year. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Apps Helping Kenyan Businesses Stay Ahead of Counterfeiters

Counterfeit goods in Kenya cost the government as much as $1 billion each year in lost tax revenues. The fake goods also hurt entrepreneurs who find it hard to carve out a niche in the market and retain customers. But as Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi, information technology is being used to try to beat the problem.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.

VOA Blogs