News / USA

    Supreme Court Loosens Campaign Finance Laws

    Senator Charles Schumer speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill about the Supreme Court decision on campaign financing, April 2, 2014.
    Senator Charles Schumer speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill about the Supreme Court decision on campaign financing, April 2, 2014.
    The U.S. Supreme Court Wednesday issued an important ruling that further loosens restrictions on campaign contribution limits, possibly opening the way for even greater influence by wealthy donors.  

    By a vote of 5-4, the conservative majority on the Supreme Court struck down overall limits on campaign contributions for individual donors who wish to support federal candidates, political parties and political action committees.

    The previous overall limit for any one donor during a two-year election cycle was $123,200.  The high court decision opens the way for wealthy donors to contribute millions of dollars to various campaigns and political parties, an influence that has grown since another sweeping campaign finance decision by the Supreme Court in 2010.

    Wednesday’s ruling does not do away with current restrictions on contributions to individual candidates, which remain set at $2,600 per candidate per election cycle.

    The ruling got a favorable reaction from Republicans, including National Committee chairman Reince Priebus, who spoke to reporters in a conference call.

    “The First Amendment applies to all of us.  People should have the right to give their money and exercise their free speech to as many candidates and as many political committees and PACs [political action committees] as they want to," said Priebus.

    Democrats blasted the narrow decision as a defeat for the average voter and a victory for wealthy donors looking to have undue influence on U.S. elections.

    Democratic Senator Charles Schumer of New York was critical of the conservative majority on the Supreme Court.

    “They wish to dismantle all limits on giving, piece by piece, until we are back to the days of the robber barons when anyone or anything could give unlimited money, undisclosed, and make our political system seem so rigged that everyone will lose interest in our democracy," said Schumer.

    The decision also drew negative reviews from various groups that support strengthening campaign finance laws to guard against political corruption.

    Marge Baker is with People For the American Way in Washington.  She says this latest high court ruling could fire up grass roots support for tougher laws and restrictions to guard against buying influence with political candidates.  

    “There is a movement building around the country calling for addressing the huge money in politics problem that we have and that movement is growing every day," said Baker.

    But conservative Republicans in Congress are likely to block any attempt in the near future to tighten campaign finance laws.

    Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell is a longtime critic of campaign finance reform.  He equates giving political contributions to the free speech guarantee in the U.S. Constitution.

    “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," said McConnell.

    Senator McConnell was a supporter of the controversial Supreme Court decision four years ago known as Citizens United that removed a number of restrictions on corporations and labor unions that wish to spend money on campaign advocacy as long as it is independent of specific candidates.

    Outside political groups and individual wealthy donors have played a bigger role in recent national elections, and in some cases have become as influential as the two main political parties in terms of fundraising.

    Polls show Americans are concerned about the growing influence of wealthy campaign donors, but the issue ranks low on the list of priorities for most voters.

    This latest high court ruling continues to reverse a trend that began in the 1970's when Congress enacted stricter campaign finance laws in the wake of the Watergate political scandal that drove then-president Richard Nixon from office.

    Jim Malone

    Jim Malone has served as VOA’s National correspondent covering U.S. elections and politics since 1995. Prior to that he was a VOA congressional correspondent and served as VOA’s East Africa Correspondent from 1986 to 1990. Jim began his VOA career with the English to Africa Service in 1983.

    You May Like

    Native Americans Ask: What About Our Water Supply?

    They say they have been facing a dangerous water contaminant for decades - uranium – but the problem has received far less attention than water contamination by lead in Flint, Michigan

    Pakistan's President Urges Nation Not to Celebrate Valentine's Day

    Mamnoon Hussain criticizes Valentine's Day, which falls on Sunday this year, as a Western import that threatens to undermine the Islamic values of Pakistan

    Mother of IS Supporter: Son Was Peaceful, 'Role Model'

    Somali-American Abdirizak Mohamed Warsame pleaded guilty Thursday to charges of conspiring to provide material support to Islamic State militants

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    New Technology Aims to Bring Election Transparency to Ugandai
    X
    Serginho Roosblad
    February 12, 2016 9:29 PM
    A team of recent graduates from Uganda’s Makerere University has created a mobile application designed to help monitor elections and expose possible rigging. The developers say the app, called E-Poll, will make Uganda's democratic process fairer. From Kampala, VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
    Video

    Video New Technology Aims to Bring Election Transparency to Uganda

    A team of recent graduates from Uganda’s Makerere University has created a mobile application designed to help monitor elections and expose possible rigging. The developers say the app, called E-Poll, will make Uganda's democratic process fairer. From Kampala, VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
    Video

    Video Refugees in Kenya Vie to Compete in Rio Olympics

    In Kenya, refugees from other African nations are training at a special camp and competing for a limited number of slots in this year's Rio Olympics under the flag of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Ngong, this is a first in Olympic history.
    Video

    Video Gateway to Mecca: Historical Old Jeddah

    Local leader Sami Nawar's family has been in the Old City of Jeddah for hundreds of years and takes us on a tour of this ancient route to Mecca, also believed to be the final resting place of Adam's wife, Eve.
    Video

    Video Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortage

    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video Russia Bristles at NATO Expansion in E. Europe

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is meeting Friday with the head of NATO after the Western military alliance and the United States announced plans for the biggest military build-up in Europe since the Cold War. Russia has called NATO's moves a threat to stability in Europe. But NATO says the troop rotations and equipment are aimed at reassuring allies concerned about Russia as VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.