During an era of public outcry against government corruption, the Supreme Court conservatives strike down limits on campaign contributions

The Supreme Court - where old politicians go to die

Yesterday, the Supreme Court continued to ignore the voice of U.S. citizens, striking down a decades-old cap on the total amount any individual can contribute to federal candidates.  The justices said in a 5-4 vote that Americans have a right to give the legal maximum to candidates for Congress and president, as well as to parties and PACs, without worrying that they will violate the law when they bump up against a limit on all contributions, set at $123,200 for 2013 and 2014.  According to the Supreme Court, caps on campaign contributions restrict a person’s First Amendment free speech rights.

Chief Justice Roberts compared monetary political contributions to “free speech” when he wrote:

“If the First Amendment protects flag burning, funeral protests, and Nazi parades—despite the profound offense such spectacles cause—it surely protects political campaign speech despite popular opposition.”

The decision of course, was split along party lines with conservatives making up the majority.  Although Judges do not publicly profess membership in a party, it is fairly easy to pinpoint which party they belong to.  Chief Justice Roberts (R), Antonin Scalia (R), Anthony Kennedy (R) and Samuel Alito (R), and Clarence Thomas (R) voted in support of striking down the campaign contribution limits.  It is the latest in a string of decisions rolling back campaign-finance regulations.

According to the Wall Street Journal:

“Democrats said the ruling would open the floodgates to more corrosive money in politics. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D., Vt.) said striking down the aggregate limits would empower billionaires to drown out the voices of everyday Americans.”

The ruling follows the court’s landmark 2010 Citizens United case, where a similar Republican-dominated 5-4 majority overruled two precedents to throw out limits on political spending by corporations and unions.

Just Breyer read his dissent from the bench and said:

“Giving, say, $3,000 or more to each of 435 candidates, a total of $1.3 million, certainly can give rise to corruption or fear of corruption.  If the court in Citizens United opened a door, today’s decision may well open a floodgate [so that] a few large donations drown out the voices of the many.”

Congress enacted campaign contribution limits in the wake of Watergate-era abuses to discourage big contributors from trying to buy votes with their donations and to restore public confidence in the campaign finance system. Today the Supreme Court’s decision will once again, increase the role money plays in American politics.

Sources: CNN, The Wall Street Journal, Wikipedia, New York Times, Huffington Post, Washington Post

New report discloses more than half of US Congress members are now millionaires

Money changing hands in politics (rich politicians)

It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there but in a country where the government was designed to be representative of the people, the little dogs in the U.S. are still finding themselves at a huge disadvantage. The Center for Responsive Politics has just completed their analysis of financial data disclosed by US Congress members and has found that more than half of the members of US Congress are now millionaires. At least 268 of the 530 members of the House of Representatives and the Senate had an average net worth of $1 million or more in 2012. According to The Verge:

“This marks the first time in history that the majority of the United States’ lawmakers have fortunes totaling more than $1 million.”

The median net worth of Congressional members was found to be $1,008,767. Of the five wealthiest members of Congress, four are Democrats giving pause to the belief that Democrats are not well versed in economics. The Democrat party also comes out slightly ahead of their Republican counterparts when comparing Congressional members’ net median income: the former are valued at a median of $1.04 million, while the latter reported median personal wealth of almost exactly $1 million.

According to the report, Congressional members favorite investment is real estate, indicating that they not only own the will of the people, but are quickly gobbling up the country’s land resources too.

The rise in median Congressional fortune comes as American public opinion of their elected officials is at a staggering low, with only 8% of likely US voters canvassed by Rasmussen Reports reporting they think Congress is doing a good or excellent job.

Sources: The Verge, Center for Responsive Politics, Open Secrets