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from Jim Gaines:

Teddy Roosevelt v. Citizens United

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How is it possible that, given overwhelming public concern about the direction of the country, we could be facing historically low turnout in the midterm elections on Nov. 4?

The question isn’t new. As trust in government has swung up and down in the past half century, turnout for midterm races, as in presidential years, has varied relatively little, each staying within a 10-point range. Studies of nonvoters have found many reasons, but one of the big ones is that people know a single vote rarely if ever determines the outcome of an election.

By this reasoning, of course, why would anyone ever vote?

A portrait of U.S. President William McKinleyFor those with no family member to vote for, the best answer is usually “civic virtue,” which just means caring about the country, its direction and its future. That old answer to an old problem takes on new urgency in elections when the country faces some form of peril.

One of those moments came in 1896, after the panic of 1893, a time when the Gilded Age’s concentration of great wealth among the very few made a sharp contrast with the deep economic depression that most of the country was suffering through.

from Jim Gaines:

A constitutional amendment to take Big Money out of politics dies quietly

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This week the U.S. Senate considered a constitutional amendment that would have allowed Congress and state legislatures to limit the power of money in politics. The debate was not much covered in the media because the outcome was so predictable. But the party-line vote that killed it should not go unnoted.

A remarkable majority of the American public — 79 percent according to Gallup — want campaign finance reform. The right and left, the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street, even Jon Stewart and Bill O’Reilly agree that, left unchecked, Big Money corrupts politics and undermines democracy.

from Breakingviews:

James Hoffa: Let sun shine on corporate donations

By James Hoffa
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews guest columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Companies increasingly are playing an outsized role in U.S. elections. In many cases, they donate money to advocate controversial policies that could antagonize their customers and undermine their businesses. Because so many of these contributions are not disclosed, however, shareholders are left in the dark and unable to evaluate potential conflicts or risks.

from The Great Debate:

Roberts Court: Easier to donate, harder to vote

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.

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

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

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.

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