Phoenix, AZ – Today, the United States Supreme Court shattered another safeguard of America’s democracy by erasing campaign finance reforms passed 40 years ago after the Watergate scandal. As witnessed before Watergate reforms, the decision is expected to allow for greater influence over government officials and increased corruption in policymaking that benefits big money interests who can support candidates with more campaign cash.
In a 5-4 decision, the Court’s majority followed the path they created in Citizen’s United by tossing another long established law that previous Courts deemed unconstitutional. Justice Roberts, writing for the majority, said, ”The government has a strong interest, no less critical to our democratic system, in combatting corruption and its appearance," Roberts wrote. "We have, however, held that this interest must be limited to a specific kind of corruption — quid pro quo corruption — in order to ensure that the government's efforts do not have the effect of restricting the First Amendment right of citizens to choose who shall govern them."
Arizona Advocacy Network Executive Director, Sam Wercinski commented, “By furthering a warped concept that money equals speech, the Court’s five Justices continue to undermine American Democracy established for the Many, not the Money.”
As seen after the Citizens United decision, reformers believe McCutcheon v FEC will flood elections with more money from fewer individuals and groups, handing elections over to millionaires and billionaires and creating unprecedented political inequality. Janee Pousson, a young professional and mother of two said, “The only Arizonans celebrating today’s decision are the politicians, wealthy individuals and special interest groups that also benefitted from Citizens United.”
“Most politicians already focus on donors rather than voters. The Court’s majority undermines our nation’s basic principle of “one person, one vote,” by giving donors more influence than citizens,” Wercinski added.
Shaun McCutcheon and the Republican National Committee challenged the post-Watergate law that has been in place for 40 years. The aggregate amounts that any one person could previously give for the 2014 election were $48,600 to federal candidates and $74,600 to political parties and PACs. The overall amount of $123,200 is more than twice what average American families make in a year. In 2012 about 650 individuals gave the maximum amount $123,200. Ultra-wealthy individuals and special interest groups now have essentially free reign to sway American elections and government policymaking in any direction they choose.
Arizona Senator Steve Gallardo, criticized the decision, saying, “Voters in Arizona and across the nation are having the door to democracy shut in their face with the McCutcheon decision. Recent attacks on our strongest anti-corruption law, Clean Elections, the Citizens United decision, and now McCutcheon only benefit big-money backed politicians and their donors.”
Dr. Doris Marie Provine, Board President for Arizona Advocacy Network concluded, “Big money and special interest groups already receive special treatment in policymaking at the expense of working voters. The McCutcheon decision is another reason to strengthen Arizona’s Clean Elections Act and to support Clean candidates who must focus on voters, not donors.”