American politics is in trouble. A tsunami of unaccountable, untraceable political money is overwhelming the Republican race for the presidential nomination and threatens to do the same to the fall election. For many people, especially progressives, the culprit is easy to name: the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which swept away any limits on election-advocacy ads by corporations, unions, and “independent” political-action committees (PACs) and issue groups. Many progressives believe that Citizens United “made corporations people” and that a constitutional amendment restricting “corporate personhood” will cure this political ill.
Election Day 2012 looks like it is going to be Groundhog Day 2012. Another election dominated by money. Another series of promises made on the campaign trail, broken as soon as donors and lobbyists come calling when legislatures convene.
I overlooked this in yesterday's post, but the Supreme Court's decision in McComish v. Bennett does more than just strike down the "trigger" mechanism in Arizona's public-financing law, which provides funds to participating candidates when they're outspent by opponents; it keeps Connecticut lawmakers from reintroducing an identical provision to their system of public financing, thus forcing them to devise another system for allocating funds. In a small bit of good news, however, the Court also rejected a challenge to Connecticut's law, which should provide hope for public-financing advocates.
For the reasons that TAPPED's Paul Waldmandiscussed earlier today, it's rather remarkable that the constitutionality of Arizona's campaign-finance law is even in question. Actual restrictions on campaign spending present a difficult question, as First Amendment values are put in conflict with democratic equality. Regimes like Arizona's, on the other hand, do not have the same tension. Candidates can spend as much money as they want, but candidates without the same resources are given the resources to compete.
Today the Supreme Court will be hearing arguments in the case of McComish v. Bennett, which will decide the fate of Arizona's "clean elections" law and similar ones in a few other states. It seems likely that the Roberts Court, where protecting the interests of the wealthy and powerful so often trumps any other consideration, will strike down the Arizona law.
If you haven't already, you should check out my column today on the Supreme Court's decision to hear arguments in McComish v. Bennett, a case which deals with Arizona's public-financing law. Here are the important parts:
McComish deals with an aspect of Arizona's public-financing law that provides extra funds for candidates who opt into the system when their opponents opt out. Candidates are still bound by spending limits, but if their opponent goes beyond that limit, they are given the funds to match their opponent's spending.
Boy, it sure is a good thing the Roberts Court isn't a bunch of judicial activists. Here's their latest move:
The Supreme Court stepped into another campaign finance controversy on Tuesday when it blocked Arizona from distributing campaign subsidies to publicly funded candidates facing big-spending opponents.
The justices granted a stay of a portion of the state's 12-year-old Clean Elections program, which authorizes public money for state candidates who bypass most private fundraising. The court stopped the state from providing "matching funds" to those candidates whose opponents are spending large sums of private money.
"What will the effect be of the Supreme Court's Citizens United on elections?" Scott Lemieux asks below. For all the reasons he describes, the decision is enormous, radical, and wrong, and it will undoubtedly have sweeping impact on future election law as well as other areas of First Amendment and corporate law.
At a Brookings Institution event this morning, four of the most prominent mainstream scholar/advocates of campaign finance reform set forward a new approach -- albeit one that might seem familiar to Prospect readers.