Other topics addressed in this forum:
The history of campaign fianance reform.
How campaign finance reform is handled in other countries.
The power of political action committees (PACs) and if, and how, that power should be regulated.
Speaker Gingrich's comment that there is too little money in the system
What Senator Bill Bradley plans to do about campaign finance reform after leaving the Senate.
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A question from Alicia Braun of Berkeley, CA
Why have the courts been rolling back limits on campaign spending? Can anything be done about it? What will the impact of Wednesday's Supreme Court decision allowing unlimited spending by political parties have on the fall elections?
Ellen Miller responds:
The world of money-in-politics law has been largely shaped by the 1976 Supreme Court decision in Buckley v. Valeo. In that decision, the Court held, many believe mistakenly, that money is speech. While it upheld a provision of the Federal Election Campaign Act regarding limits on campaign contributions from individuals and political action committees, it struck down limits on overall expenditures, limits on so-called "independent expenditures," and limits on expenditures by candidates from personal resources as infringements on the rights of free speech. This single legal decision has shaped the thinking and stymied the enactment of campaign finance reform. Left unchallenged, this ruling has single-handedly distorted our thinking about reform options.
Until now, reform efforts on private money in politics have operated solely within a First Amendment paradigm -- the emphasis placed on the purported free speech rights of wealthy candidates, campaign contributors, and others who would use their personal resources to influence elections. A publication by the Center for Responsive Politics -- THE WEALTH PRIMARY -- by John Bonifaz and Jamin Raskin offers a new paradigm, one that accounts for the equal protection rights of non-wealthy candidates and millions of non-wealthy voters by addressing the requirements of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Their work explores uncharted waters in the law of money in politics and in the ways such money undermines the bedrock of our democracy -- the right to vote.
We are uncertain about the impact of the Supreme Court decision this week on this year's elections. It is clear that a new avenue now exists for the political parties to use to funnel millions into the election system in a way that can further maximize the clout of campaign contributors.
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