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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Unlimited campaign contributions damage the foundation of democracy

 

Last week the Supreme Court made an absolutely horrible decision. In McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission the court ruled that capping the total amount of donation money that one can give to campaigns is unconstitutional. While the ruling only affected an at-large limit on campaign donations, as donation caps for individual campaigns remain in place, it violates the fundamental notion that the American public is entitled to fair elections. 

This ruling comes as no surprise to the people who have followed this court’s recent decisions on campaign finance. It furthers the ridiculous doctrine of Citizens United (2010) in that unlimited money can infiltrate our democracy. This ruling was made because it would somehow violate free speech by not allowing wealthy people to purchase elections. 

This notion is especially  appalling because it has been used to blatantly undermine the public’s due process and right to fair elections. McCutcheon and Citizens United are disturbing because they establish a dangerous precedent that social Darwinism serves as an entitlement for wealthy individuals to have unlimited power. We, the people, must show the court that we find these decisions objectionable and must stop the court from further taking our rights away from us.

The ‘free speech’ argument that has been the basis for both McCutcheon and Citizens United is severely flawed. First of all, the court has previously established that there are limits to free speech. Professor Donald Downs has spent a large portion of his career here at UW-Madison teaching a class on the complexity of the First Amendment. Restrictions include that one cannot directly incite violence. Additionally,  one cannot burn their draft card as symbolic speech (which is protected under the First Amendment). 

Furthermore, there are similar limitations to which spending money counts as speech, or at least to be protected under the First Amendment. For example, one cannot purchase illegal drugs and claim their action is protected by the First Amendment. Cases that  may infringe on free speech are looked at with strict scrutiny, and when one uses that standard here, it is clear that there is a compelling government and public interest that warrants limits on individual contributions to campaigns. The right to due process is clearly at stake.   

In constitutional law, the people’s right to due process applies not only to legal procedure but also to the entire process through which laws are made. This means that elections must be fair. If elections are not fair, than the entire process through which the law is made is illegitimate. In other words, these decisions taint the entire political process. 

We cannot accept elections as fair if one individuals ‘speech’ is allowed to matter infinitely more than another person’s ‘speech.’ It is absolutely ridiculous to think that elections are fair if some billionaire can sponsor a political candidate or party, while 99 percent of the population is only capable of making relatively small contributions. 

The system that this court’s doctrine on campaign finance creates is not only dangerous, but also clearly in violation of the 14th Amendment.

Additionally, the decisions set dangerous precedents for American political thought, aside from the previously mentioned dangerous legal precedents. I believe in capitalism. I believe that those who work hard or come up with the best ideas should be incentivized to benefit society by being able to make more money. I do not believe that these people are entitled to a better set of rights than the rest of us. Unfortunately, the court has given the rich a legal right to dominate our democracy.

There is a large segment of the population that believes wealth should equate to significantly better health care, education and numerous other social services. This is simply  and completely wrong. 

The current system allows a small minority to make unbelievably large sums of money, as the rest of the population gets poorer thus widening the wealth gap in this country. We cannot think of wealth as an entitlement to better rights because it arbitrarily gives a select few a privilege and penalizes the rest of the population. I believe in capitalism. I do not believe in unchecked social Darwinism.

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What is your opinion on the most recent Supreme Court ruling on campaign contributions? Should campaign contributions be seen as free speech or as just another way for the more wealthy Americans to dominate our political system? Tell us how you feel and please send all feedback to opinion@dailycardinal.com.

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