By Paul Gorski
Billionaires Charles and David Koch recently announced plans to raise and spend $889 million on the 2016 elections through personal and other contributions, according to a New York Times column by Nicholas Confessore in “Koch Brothers’ Budget of $889 Million for 2016 Is on Par With Both Parties’ Spending,” Jan. 26.
The $899 million exceeds what the Republican National Committee and both Republican congressional, senate and house, spent on the 2012 elections, an estimated $657 million.
Confessore reports: “The Kochs are longtime opponents of campaign disclosure laws. Unlike the parties, their network is constructed chiefly of nonprofit groups that are not required to reveal donors. That makes it almost impossible to tell how much of the money is provided by the Kochs — among the wealthiest men in the country — and how much by other donors.”
How can two people have such influence on our elections? Brandon Reid described the key court decisions leading to this situation in, “Editorial: Amendment needed to save ‘government of the people’,” from the April 30, 2014, edition: “Jan. 3, 1976, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Buckley v. Valeo that spending money to influence elections is a form of constitutionally protected free speech. Jan. 21, 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission that, contrary to longstanding precedents, corporations have a First Amendment right to spend unlimited amounts of money to promote or defeat candidates. And April 2, 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission that putting a limit on the amount of biennial financial contributions individuals can make to national party and federal candidate committees is unconstitutional. Prior to the ruling, the limit an individual could contribute every two years to a federal candidate was $123,200.”
You are free to support the candidates of your choice, but we should know who is contributing what to whom, and with reasonable limits. The McCutcheon and Citizens United rulings are simply wrong: money is not speech. Unlimited contributions from unnamed sources leaves the door wide open to corruption. Limiting campaign contributions is not limiting speech — the act of contributing to a campaign, not the amount, is the protected speech.
You will have a say in April. There will be an advisory question on the April 7 election ballot regarding campaign corruption and finance reform. The question reads as follows:
“Do you support reducing the corrupting influence of money on our political system by prohibiting politicians from taking campaign money from the special interests they regulate; increasing transparency for campaign funding; empowering all voters through a tax rebate voucher to contribute to the candidates they support; prohibiting representatives and senior staff from lobbying activity for five years after they leave office; and placing limits on super PAC-campaign coordination?”
Support this ballot measure and start to take back your elections and your politicians.
Paul Gorski (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a Cherry Valley Township resident who also authors the Tech-Friendly column seen in this newspaper.
From the Feb. 4-10, 2015, issue