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by Demos category: Politics
On Tuesday October 8th, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on McCutcheon v. FEC, a challenge to the total cap on the amount of money one wealthy individual is permitted to contribute to all federal candidates, parties, and PACs. Join us on Tuesday, October 8th in telling the Court to stop the power of big money over government!
What you need to know about the case:
After getting the First Amendment supremely wrong in Citizens United, the Supreme Court now faces its next money in politics case. In McCutcheon v. FEC, the challengers are attacking a law that says that no one person can contribute over $123,000 directly to federal candidates, parties, and committees—that’s over twice the average American’s income. The Supreme Court has previously upheld these contribution limits because they fight both the reality and the appearance that our democratic government is corrupted by the improper influence of big money on politics and policy. After all, in a democracy the size of your wallet should not determine the impact of your voice or your right to representation.
We don’t need the Court to do any more damage to our democracy. Shaped by the Court’s past decisions, the current system of campaign finance already allows a minute percentage of wealthy Americans, the donor class, to dominate our elections. If the Court strikes these limits, a single wealthy donor could contribute more than $3.5 million to one party’s candidates and committees. And, elected officials could solicit multi-million dollar checks from a single donor, providing greater incentive for candidates—and office holders—to grant these donors improper influence.
A diverse array of groups representing almost 9.5 million Americans have come together on a brief authored by Demos to tell the Supreme Court—and our elected representatives—that Americans are outraged about the impact of money on the integrity and responsiveness of the United States government. These groups include the four principal conveners of the Democracy Initiative—Communication Workers of America, Greenpeace, the NAACP, and the Sierra Club—as well as the Main Street Alliance representing small business, Our Time and Rock the Vote representing young people, the American Federation of Teachers and Working Families Organization representing working families, and People for the American Way and U.S. PIRG representing the public interest.
Despite their concerns about the impact of campaign money on the integrity of their government, Americans have not given up on the belief that limiting the size of contributions is an important answer. Nearly three-quarters (73 percent) of all voters believe there should be common-sense limits on the amount of money people can contribute to political campaigns. A large majority of Americans, 60 percent, say “candidates ought to tackle money in politics in order to make government work for the middle class."
The Court should refuse to exacerbate fundraising dynamics that pressure elected representatives to favor the policy preferences of those they depend on for financial support. Elected officials are frequently raising money from the very interests they are charged with regulating—and which they must regulate effectively in the public interest. Those in positions of economic power can use their financial resources to support their favored politicians, and in turn elected officials can use their political power to further the economic interests of their financial supporters. This can lead to capture of government by private economic interests, in derogation of the duties of elected representatives to act in the interests of their constituents and the country as a whole. To prevent the crisis in confidence in American democratic government from worsening, the Court must uphold the contribution limits challenged in McCutcheon v FEC.
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Demos is a public policy organization working for an America where we all have an equal say in our democracy and an equal chance in our economy.