Supreme Court knocks down another limit on billionaire money in elections

The rich can now not only loan themselves unlimited amounts of money when they run for office, but they can now use campaign contributions to pay themselves back even after an election is over, according to Popular.info, one of the best independent news sites out there:

There are few meaningful limits remaining on money in politics. As a result, politics has become increasingly dominated by the wealthy. The average U.S. Senator is a multi-millionaire. On Monday, the Supreme Court made the situation a little bit worse. 

For the last 20 years, there has been a modest restriction on wealthy candidates that loan their campaigns money. Candidates are free to loan their campaign an unlimited amount of money. And, during the campaign, they can pay themselves back however much they want. But, after the campaign is over, any outstanding debt to the candidate over $250,000 is considered a contribution and cannot be repaid. 

The rationale is, after the conclusion of the election, contributions cannot possibly benefit the campaign. This money is going directly into the pocket of the candidate. So there is a threat of real and perceived corruption. 

The Supreme Court, by a 6-3 vote, has now decided that this provision, which has been law since the enactment of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, is unconstitutional. 

Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for the majority, lays out a depressingly short-sighted rationale for the decision removing yet another key control on how the rich can game elections. Justice Elena Kagan notes in a dissent:

A candidate for public office extends a $500,000 loan to his campaign organization, hoping to recoup the amount from benefactors’ post-election contributions. Once elected, he devotes himself assiduously to recovering the money; his personal bank account, after all, now has a gaping half-million-dollar hole. The politician solicits donations from wealthy individuals and corporate lobbyists, making clear that the money they give will go straight from the campaign to him, as repayment for his loan. He is deeply grateful to those who help, as they know he will be—more grateful than for ordinary campaign contributions (which do not increase his personal wealth). And as they paid him, so he will pay them. In the coming months and years, they receive government benefits—maybe favorable legislation, maybe prized appointments, maybe lucrative contracts. The politician is happy; the donors are happy. The only loser is the public. It inevitably suffers from government corruption.

It’s clear that a majority of the current Supreme Court does not see how letting the rich have unfettered access to elections under the guise of “free speech,” limits the rights of non-wealthy voters who cannot possibly have a level playing field in elections wherein money can tip the scales so completely.

Justice Elena Kagan wrote a spirited defense of sane campaign finance laws.

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