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October 28, 2013

Oct. 28, 2013: Weekly wrap

Don’t remove limits on donations

Politics in America shouldn’t be about money. It should be about ideas. About public policy. About who best conveys the will of the people.

But big money has gained an increasing foothold in elections for senators, members of Congress and other high offices.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in the 2010 Citizens United case opened the floodgates for super PACs, and now the Supreme Court is considering another decision that could be the second blow in a one-two punch to the gut of those who want to limit the influence of big money.

The court is hearing arguments in McCutcheon vs. the Federal Election Commission, and the justices seem to be leaning toward removing limits on individual campaign donations. These limits have been in force since the 1970s, when they were implemented to discourage political corruption in the aftermath of Watergate.

As it stands, an individual can give as much as $2,600 to each campaign for a limited number of congressional candidates during a two-year election cycle. A Supreme Court decision to overturn this limit could basically remove any cap on such giving.

If that happens, one billionaire could basically finance the entire campaign of a candidate. It’s dangerous when members of Congress are beholden to only a few people rather than the will of the general public.

A group of Democratic congressmen, led by Maryland’s John Sarbanes, has introduced a different concept that would reward candidates for seeking small donations from the multitudes.

The Grassroots Democracy Act, introduced this year in the House, would match every individual campaign donation of $100 or less, with public funds, dollar for dollar. The act would also give each voter a $50 tax credit to be used for donations to campaigns of candidates of the voter’s choice.

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