An affront to our principles

In a 5-4 decision by the Supreme Court’s Republican-appointed justices (John Roberts, Samuel Alito Jr., Clarence Thomas, Antonin Scalia and Anthony Kennedy) on Wednesday, the highest court in the land decided to overturn the aggregate limits on the amount of money an individual can give to political campaigns, PACs and parties.

Prior to the court’s ruling, federal law capped the total amount a single donor could give at $48,600 to candidate committees and $74,600 to PACs and party committees in each two-year cycle. Though there still exists a separate $2,600 limit on donations to a single candidate and a $32,400 cap on donations to parties, this decision (McCutcheon v. FEC) coupled with the conservative majority of the court’s decision in the 2010 case Citizen’s United v. FEC, is an affront to our nation’s democratic principles.

Citizen’s United, a decision that allows corporations and unions to give to PACs and tax-exempt non-profits anonymously, has already lead to an oligarchy of millionaires and billionaires essentially buying elections – for instance, Karl Rove’s Crossroads network spent more than $300 million in the 2012 election cycle. Now with McCutcheon, conservatives on the Supreme Court have only furthered the influence of monied interests on our republic.

Money is not First Amendment-protected speech. Corporations are not people. Conservatives are selling our democracy to the likes of billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch, and the Koch’s are just one example of those seeking a huge return on their investment in the form of policies that will benefit them but hurt the working poor, the middle-class and the environment.

We must seek a constitutional amendment to overturn these decisions and embody in our founding document that money is not speech and that only people are people. In addition, we need public financing of elections to once-and-for-all overcome the power of the monied interests. It’s time to fight back!

Eric Engle