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Can We Safeguard Our Democracy After McCutcheon?

April 5, 2014 in Blogs

By Joshua Holland, BillMoyers.com

We might just find a silver lining to the dark clouds that McCutcheon and Citizens United represent.

The Supreme Court’s evisceration of our campaign finance rules is a powerful argument for the cleansing properties of sunlight. We should respond to McCutcheon by pushing for the full and timely disclosure of every penny donated to advance a political agenda.

If America’s wealthiest can offer unlimited dollars to shape our politics, the least we can do is force them to own their activism. It’s time to get rid of the loopholes for sham “social welfare” organizations and trade groups. It’s time to wipe out the dark money, and force those wealthy few to publicly stand behind their positions.

That’s not only a good and timely idea – it may also be the only viable tool we have left to protect our democracy, at least for the foreseeable future.

When the Supreme Court handed down its decision in McCutcheon, Sam Steiner, a fellow at Yale Law School, wrote that the court’s conservatives have “no idea how money works in politics.” It’s a common criticism. As Justice Stephen Breyernoted in his dissent in McCutcheon, the conservative bloc’s decision in the case rested “upon its own, not a record-based, view of the facts.”

But it’s more likely that the justices know exactly how money works in politics.Several studies have shown that the court’s conservatives are far more likely to engage in “judicial activism” than their liberal counterparts. In Citizens United,they went so far as to order the litigants to re-argue their case on First Amendment grounds, prompting former Justice John Paul Stevens to write, “Five Justices were unhappy with the limited nature of the case before us, so they changed the case to give themselves an opportunity to change the law.”

There’s no reason to believe that a majority that almost always rules in favor of the US Chamber of Commerce doesn’t know what eviscerating our campaign finance rules means. Rather, they’ve been working to create the world they want to see. Ari Berman wrote that the Roberts court has consistently “made it far easier to buy an election and far harder to vote in one.” (Ironically, just eight …read more


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