Thanks to the Supreme Court, that water is more polluted than ever

We just finished celebrating Mother’s Day. I’m pretty sure those celebrations would have been far less exciting if mothers didn’t love their children.

If you have ever given a baby its first bath, you know the chances are good that little dude will have some loss of control of bodily functions and that bath water will be pretty gross pretty quickly.

But we wouldn't celebrate Mother’s Day at all if moms threw out their babies with the nasty bathwater.

Mothers know there is a better way. Maybe we need more mothers in politics to keep Congress from trying to do the same thing with the First Amendment to accomplish campaign finance reform.

In a sense, the Koch brothers, George Soros, Sheldon Adelson and other mega wealthy politically interested people and groups from both ends of the political spectrum have peed in in political bathwater for years.

Thanks to the Supreme Court, that water is more polluted than ever.

Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Tom Udall (D-NM) have hatched an idea to pass a constitutional amendment to take the decision out of the hands of the Supreme Court and truly limit campaign contributions.

This is not a new problem. In the early 1970s Congress tried to limit campaign contributions in an attempt to limit the impact of money on political races.

President Gerald Ford vetoed the Federal Election Campaign Act but Congress was able to override the veto.

In 1976, in the Buckley v. Valeo decision, the Supreme Court struck down many provisions of the act and instituted the idea that financing campaigns was a type of political speech that can’t be regulated under the First Amendment. The justices said that Congress’s only concern should be toward regulating donations given on a quid pro quo basis that lead to political corruption. Many people see these quid pro quo arrangements in donations from Koch Industries and one of their favorite political action committees Americans for Prosperity. There is always the chicken and egg argument about whether the Kochs identify candidates who would already vote that way and support them or if their contributions secure votes.

Recent Kansas debates over moves to help break up teacher unions and attempts to do away with support for wind and other alternative energy that compete with Koch Industries’ oil refining operations raise the specter of legislators doing the bidding of their masters.

The same is seen on the national level as people like Adelson, the owner of a gambling empire, supports candidates who suddenly support regulations on offshore gambling that help Adelson make even more money.

Soros is equally repulsive on the other side of the spectrum as he uses his billions to support environmental extremism and other liberal agendas.

In Buckley v. Valeo, the Supreme Court cracked the door to dark money campaigns.

The 2010 Citizens United v. FEC ruling threw the door open as the justices in a 5-4 decision ruled that corporations and unions have the same rights to donate to campaigns as individuals – and you thought Mitt Romney made up the idea that corporations are people.

A recent decision by the same court took that to an even greater extreme. In McCutcheon v. FEC the court ruled that restricting how much money a donor may contribute to candidates, parties, and PACs do not further the government’s interest in preventing corruption they are illegal under the First Amendment.

Thinkers on both sides of the aisle know that these constitutionally protected donations are bad for the system as a whole. The Supreme Court doesn’t see how regulating donations can stop corruption and the appearance of corruption.

Obviously, plutocrats on both sides want to support successful campaigns so they can cheat the system and pass bills under the cover of darkness that fill their personal pockets or please their political persuasions.

But rewriting the First Amendment feels a lot like throwing out a baby with the bathwater and congress better be careful when they start that process.

And even if I liked the concept, I am almost sure I won’t like the result of having Schumer and Udall author the groundbreaking change.

"Elections have become more about the quantity of cash and less about the quality of ideas," Udall said.

I can stipulate that I agree with his position, but I still doubt that an Amendment giving Congress the right to limit campaign donations that have been deemed to be a First Amendment free speech issue is the right move. I typically hate slippery slope logic arguments but if you can amend freedom of speech in America, what else is possible?

"I respect my colleagues' fidelity to the First Amendment, but no amendment is absolute," Schumer said. "Some support limitations on pornography. That's a limitation on the First Amendment. Some support legislation saying you can't yell fire in a movie theater. That's a limitation on the First Amendment."

Schumer said he supports this amendment to the constitution because it restores balance to the system. But wealthy people on both sides of the aisle are allowed to contribute, so balance is more of a personal problem than a legal one.

Other countries in Europe and South America have no problems with limiting campaign donations and expenditures. But they also don’t hold freedom of speech as sacrosanct as America does.

Schumer and Udall have 35 sponsors of their efforts to pass this Amendment. That is not a bad level of support, but I don’t expect this effort to go anywhere.

It is never fun to find a spider in your bedroom, but you can get rid of it without burning down you house. As bad as campaign finance is, tampering with the First Amendment is the wrong way to fix it.


Bush is the publisher of the Butler County Times Gazette and can be reached at: