Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

October 28, 2013

Oct. 28, 2013: Weekly wrap


Kokomo Tribune

---- — 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.

This sort of campaign finance reform would help put the power back in the hands of the people. What the Supreme Court is considering ... well, that would invite another age of Nixon-esque corruption.

— The Tribune, Seymour

The ‘fix’ won’t last for long

An agreement was finally reached to put a stop — temporarily, at least — to the dysfunction gripping our nation’s capital. Yet all that really changes is the urgency of the problem. There are certainly no heroes in this latest development, which re-opens the federal government after a 16-day partial shutdown and raises the debt limit for a few more months.

No, there is nothing to celebrate. The destructive brinkmanship we’ve come to expect from this Congress, primarily driven by the most conservative members of the U.S. House of Representatives with a couple of noisy allies in the Senate, has become part and parcel of the way public business gets done — or not done — in this day and age of American politics.

It should be noted that the crusade launched by tea party-supported members of Congress accomplished nothing for their cause. Ultimately, more moderate voices prevailed, but not before the partial government shutdown and the U.S. Treasury reached the brink of a frightening default.

Despite a reprieve from the current crisis, let’s not fool ourselves in thinking that an actual resolution was reached. It was not. The country will potentially be put through the same madness again in early 2014.

The American system of government relies on checks and balances, so a certain amount of partisan political warfare is to be expected. That’s not a bad thing. The problem arises when a radical minority becomes so hell-bent on inflicting its will that everyone else is deprived of stable governance. The American system works best when the country is governed from the middle, not from the extremes.

Because of the stark ideological divisions that have produced the current dysfunction, it’s clear that only time — and a new election cycle — can temper the political climate.

A year from now, voters will have another chance to assess their options. For the sake of saner government, we hope they choose wisely.

— Tribune-Star, Terre Haute