Buckle up: Campaign cash clears constitutional hurdle

<p>Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., right, accompanied by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., speak to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, April 2, 2014, about the Supreme Court¹s decision in the McCutcheon vs. FEC case, in which the Court struck down limits in federal law on the aggregate <a id=campaign contributions individual donors may make to candidates, political parties, and political action committees.  |  AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta

" class="article-img" />

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., right, accompanied by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., speak to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, April 2, 2014, about the Supreme Court¹s decision in the McCutcheon vs. FEC case, in which the Court struck down limits in federal law on the aggregate campaign contributions individual donors may make to candidates, political parties, and political action committees.  |  AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta

As usual, Lennon and McCartney nailed it.

The fab duo’s catchy “Can’t Buy Me Love” speaks truth. Money can indeed buy a lot of stuff: diamond rings, champagne, romantic meals and the like. But love? Nah. Not for sale.

It does appear to have plenty of clout in securing votes, however — and the mind-boggling $1 billion expended for the 2012 race for the White House could turn out to be small potatoes in comparison to what’s to come.

As you may know, the highest court in the land ruled Tuesday on the McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission case, voting 5-4 to lift the cap on aggregate political contributions to political parties, political action committees and candidates for national office, and calling previous limits an unconstitutional constraint to free speech. A majority on the high bench opined similarly in Citizens United v. FEC four years ago, ruling that the First Amendment forbids the government from restricting independent political spending by corporations, labor unions or other groups.

This means that if we believe in the power of the ballot box, we’re just going to have to pay better attention than ever, people. Like it or not, the truth is that money talks.

It isn’t just about casino-owning gazillionaire Sheldon Adelson, or left-leaning philanthropist George Soros, or even the Koch brothers — whose combined worth, in case you missed it, climbed an average of $1 billion every single month last year. It’s about all of that money, and what it will buy.

Nobody I’ve heard so far is surmising that there will be great correlation between the size of the donation and the extent of benefit it brings to the greater good once it’s been funneled to an office holder. And there’s broad speculation that the Supreme Court’s ruling this week will benefit one side of the aisle more than the other, which seems plausible. But I can’t help believing there aren’t a whole lot of us responding to the court’s decision with a “Yippeee! Now the millionaires can really flood our airwaves and mailboxes with campaign claptrap!”

Forgive my jaded view, but it seems unlikely that much of this new influx of cash will be devoted to boosting the flow of truly nonpartisan information. It seems much more likely we’ll be witness to new levels of biting barb and flinging mud.

Several Naperville people are vying for state and national office next November, including both political newcomers and veterans of the campaign trail. Current city Councilman Grant Wehrli, former city Councilwoman Darlene Senger, incumbent U.S. Rep. Bill Foster, and residents Ed Agustin, Krishna Bansal and Michael Mason are a few of the candidates. And while it’s absolutely possible that none of them, once elected, would make decisions influenced by the major donors to their campaigns, it can’t hurt to know who those benefactors are. Once they’re in office, it’s not Adelman or Soros or Koch money they’ll vote on spending; it’s yours and mine.

Really, let’s keep on top of this. It matters.

Information about who’s giving money to whom, and how much, can be found without too much trouble on assorted websites, including these:

voices.suntimes.com/early-and-often/illinois-political-contributions-database/

votesmart.org

www.elections.il.gov/CampaignDisclosure/ContributionsSearchByAllContributions.aspx

www.opensecrets.org/outsidespending/summ.php?disp=D

followthemoney.com

0 Comments

Modal