Supreme Injustice: Debate on the Supreme Court's treatment of Campaign Finance and Voting -- Edsall vs. Weiser & Norden

by - May 08, 2014

The Constitution, the Supreme Court reassured us in the recent McCutcheon decision, protects the “basic” democratic right of every American “to participate in electing our political leaders.” That should offer solace at a time when self-interested politicians in far too many states are passing laws that could keep millions of eligible citizens from voting. But should we be reassured? Recent Supreme Court decisions give us pause. While the Supreme Court talks about the fundamental right to participate, in the last several years it has only been willing to seriously protect that right for a few of us — a very few.
Source: Weiser & Norden, April 30, 2014: Supreme Court: Helping Biggest Donors, But What About Voters? | Brennan Center for Justice
The Supreme Court’s ruling earlier this spring in McCutcheon v F.E.C., which increased the amount of money donors can contribute to political campaigns for federal office, has added new fuel to an 80-year-old debate between those who contend that the Supreme Court decides cases on the basis of abstract principles of law and those who argue that judicial rulings are based primarily on political and economic considerations. Continue reading the main story FEATURED COMMENT James F Traynor Punta Gorda I think it would be much better if we simply dropped the charade of an apolitical Supreme Court; it is not, has not been and never will be apolitical. 269 COMMENTS WRITE A COMMENT Liberal critics of the Roberts court now draw a comparison between the court’s rulings in campaign finance cases like McCutcheon and Citizens United v F.E.C. (2010), both of which expand the ability of the rich to contribute to candidates, and decisions in two recent voting rights cases, Crawford v. Marion County Election Board (2008), which imposed onerous voter-identification requirements, and last year’ Shelby County v. Holder, which overturned Department of Justice preclearance requirements in Southern states. Both of these decisions restrict the political influence of the poor and of minorities.
Source: Edsall: May 6, 2014: Supreme Injustice - NYTimes.com
In “Supreme Injustice,” Thomas Edsall cites several legal experts who purportedly disagree with our criticism of the current Supreme Court for judging limits on the ability to contribute money to candidates very strictly and limits on the right to vote very leniently. The basic objection they voice is that the legal frameworks governing the voting and campaign finance contexts are different. That is entirely correct as a descriptive matter, but that doesn’t mean that the Court has it right.  The Court’s inconsistent treatment of voting rights and money in politics cases has been noted and criticized by a number of prominent legal scholars. And in the recent McCutcheon decision, the Court itself grouped the rights to vote and contribute in elections as part of the basic democratic “right to participate in electing our political leaders.” Both rights are protected by the First Amendment. Thus it is fair to argue that the right to vote, which strikes us as even more central to “participation in electing” our leaders, should be afforded at least as much protection as the right to contribute. And if the concept of speech moves you more than democratic participation, voting for a candidate is no less expressive of support than contributing money to her.
Source: Weiser & Norden, May 8, 2014: SCOTUS's Inconsistent Treatment of Voting and Campaign Finance | Brennan Center for Justice

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