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from The Great Debate:

Roberts Court: Easier to donate, harder to vote

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Chief Justice John Roberts’ first sentence of his majority opinion in McCutcheon v. Federal Elections Commission, striking down important limits on campaign contributions, declares “There is no right more basic in our democracy than the right to participate in electing our political leaders.”

A look at the Roberts Court’s record, however, shows that this may not be its guiding principle.

Through a series of rulings, the court’s conservative majority’s rulings have instead made it easier for big-money donors to influence elections -- while making it harder for many Americans to use the only political influence they have: their vote.

The court has done handsprings to accommodate claims that laws burdening donors’ ability to spend money in elections are unconstitutional. In Citizens United, for example, the court decided to schedule re-argument during a special court session -- something very rare in the Supreme Court -- to consider whether to strike down campaign finance restrictions on corporate expenditures as unconstitutional. (Which the court ultimately did.). The plaintiff in that case hadn’t even pressed such a radical argument, until the court explicitly invited it to do so.

from Jack Shafer:

My secret plan for all that new campaign cash!

The campaign finance decision the Supreme Court delivered Wednesday stirred all the same responses from all the same sources, with the anti-money faction bellowing that the Roberts court had now completed its plan -- hatched with 2010's Citizens United ruling --  to put democracy up for sale. The pro-money crowd (to which I belong, by the way), heralded SCOTUS's latest call as a victory for free speech.

Rather than rehashing that debate and defending a side to predictable results, I'll burn my column inches identifying the real winner of McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission -- the media. The more money that flows into campaigning, the more campaigns advertise. The more they advertise, the more money they pay media outlets. And the greater the media revenue, the more secure my profession. Whoops, I mean, the more media properties collect, the more they can spend on the sort of watchdog journalism that preserves democracy!

from The Great Debate:

McCutcheon: Should the rich speak louder?

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court handed down its most important decision on campaign finance reform since Citizens United. The decision, McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, seemed to divide along familiar ideological lines, with Chief Justice John Roberts writing the majority opinion for five conservatives and Justice Stephen Breyer, writing the dissent for the four liberals.

What really divided the court, however, wasn’t partisan politics pitting Republicans against Democrats but two conflicting views of the First Amendment. Which view you embrace depends on whether you see the McCutcheon decision as a principled triumph for unpopular speech or a First Amendment disaster that will ensure that a handful of the richest Americans can use their vast resources to drown out the voices of everyone else.

from The Great Debate:

Making every voter equal

The venture capitalist Tom Perkins recently suggested that he should have a greater voice than others in selecting our government because he’s rich. “You pay a million dollars in taxes,” he told the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco, “you get a million votes. How’s that?”

Perkins later insisted that he had intended to be outrageous. As most Americans understand politics, however, he was just stating the obvious.

from The Great Debate:

What’s behind JPMorgan’s push for worker training?

Just a few weeks before federal prosecutors announced a nearly $2 billion settlement with JPMorgan Chase over Bernie Madoff’s fraudulent accounts, chairman and chief executive officer Jamie Dimon sat alongside former Congressman and White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel at an Aspen Institute forum in the biology lab of Malcolm X College to tout the embattled bank's five-year, $250 million, multi-city investment in job training. The bank would commit $15 million for “workplace readiness and demand-driven training” in Chicago.

JPMorgan is not alone in its quest to change how it is seen. Goldman Sachs recently extended its 10,000 Small Businesses plan to Detroit, the latest of a number of cities to receive cash from the investment bank. There's a reason beyond the corporate charity push for all the giving. The financial industry is facing a sea change in electoral politics. It is increasingly operating in a polarized political system that has placed a premium on accountability. Populist and ideologically extreme constituencies are needed for primaries and general elections in which fewer middle-of-the-road voters participate. Loyalties change quickly if pols don't sway the way their bases want. Elected and would-be elected officials can rely on campaign cash from super PACs and independent expenditures involving wealthy contributors like Sheldon Adelson, George Soros and David Koch. Campaigners don't have to rely as much on Wall Street as a unit.

from The Great Debate:

The Supreme Court ‘s Gilded Age redux

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The Supreme Court belongs to the small club whose members seem to assume that saying something makes it so. It deals in precedents -- not the same thing as dealing in history. It prefers obiter dicta to the messiness of the past.

In his Citizens United opinion, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote, “By definition, an independent expenditure is political speech presented to the electorate that is not coordinated with a candidate.”

from Breakingviews:

Election reveals clear calculus: 47 pct > 1 pct

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By Jeffrey Goldfarb
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

This U.S. election provided a valuable math lesson for those worried about the consequences of income inequality: the 47 percent of the population dismissed by Mitt Romney during his campaign can wield greater power than the richest 1 percent.

from The Great Debate:

Why doesn’t Mitt Romney contribute to his own campaign?

Lately, Mitt Romney has been so consumed with fundraising that his aides have had to defend his absence from the stump. Like his foe, the Republican nominee is in the midst of a frenzied financial arms race. But one hugely wealthy individual has not yet been persuaded to part with much cash to support the Republican cause: Mitt Romney himself.

Mitt Romney is hardly the first wealthy individual to seek the White House. John F. Kennedy once quipped he had received a telegram from his father: “Don’t buy another vote. I won’t pay for a landslide.” But Romney, for whatever reason, has failed to use his personal wealth to pay his campaign’s bills. His refusal to self-finance is one of the mysteries of this campaign.

from Tales from the Trail:

“Outside” spending for 2012 election already beats 2010

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There are still six weeks before Election Day on Nov. 6, but spending by Super PACs and other outside groups has already hit $465 million, more than all of the entire 2010 campaign season, with Republican-aligned groups spending well over twice as much as those backing Democrats.

Democratic-aligned Super PACs have spent $108.4 million this year, and Republican-aligned Super PACs have spent $270.5 million, according to the Sunlight Foundation, which tracks political spending. The total independent expenditures by other Super PACs was $15.6 million.

from Alison Frankel:

The Supreme Court’s next corporate campaign finance quandary

If you hate the current state of campaign finance, in which corporations and non-profits exert influence through trade associations, political action committees and so-called super PACs, you can't lay all of the blame at the doorstep of the U.S. Supreme Court's 2010 ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which held that corporations and labor unions have the same First Amendment rights to free speech as individuals.

Nor can you say that the root of the problem was the court's 2007 ruling in Federal Election Commission v. Wisconsin Right to Life that corporations and labor unions are permitted to spend money on election ads as long as those ads do not contain "express advocacy" for or against a candidate.

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