This Week's CounterPunch Topic: What, if any, limits should there be on campaign finance contributions made by corporations?-- Ed.
Crane's Punch: January's U.S. Supreme Court decision removed expenditure limits on for-profit corporations toward political speech, striking down elements of the bipartisan McCain Feingold campaign finance law. This decision cascaded to San Diego last week, as a district court ruled against local financing limits in a suit brought against the city by the Republican Party.
These decisions hurt our democracy. They enable vast resources controlled by a small number of people to "speak" at a magnitude that can dwarf and diminish the speech of those with dissenting opinions and fewer resources.
Congress should react quickly. State and federal law can still regulate how corporations make decisions about expenditures for campaigns. This could include, for example, majority or super-majority stockholder approval of such expenditures. Disclosure laws, such as those requiring television advertisement sponsorship identification, are another good avenue.
Lund's Punch: The recent Supreme Court case Citizens United v. FEC, which was decided on Jan. 21, 2010, allows corporations and unions the right to campaign on behalf of candidates in the form of independent expenditures. This case also has an impact on a local San Diego case, Thalheimer v. San Diego, in which the plaintiffs are fighting San Diego campaign finance laws based on the same First Amendment grounds.
There are some, including the president of the United States, who believe that this decision will allow companies to control American elections. This is not true. The Federal Election Commission still regulates the amount of money companies and unions can contribute to individual campaigns. There is also regulation of foreign contributions. By finally ruling on this issue, the Supreme Court has stood up in defense of the First Amendment.
Crane's Counterpunch: The danger with the Citizens United case is that companies and unions will dominate elections by outspending anyone else, including candidates, through now-legal "independent expenditures." The FEC's power is limited to punishing those who violate election law. When Wall Street banks (legally) threaten a congressman with spending "whatever it takes" if their will is not met, the FEC will have no recourse. New laws are needed urgently.
Lund's Counterpunch: It disappoints me to see that this is the other side's response. The crucial point which is missing from this argument is that for everything the corporations can do the unions can do the same. These cases were argued on the basis of the First Amendment for free speechl, and the majority of Supreme Court justices believed that our current system violates that.
Bryan Crane, who is the president of the San Diego County Young Democrats, earned his PhD at MIT in 2005, works at San Diego biotech Illumina and admits to being unable to run in flip-flops.
Andrew Lund is the current President of the San Diego Young Republicans.