NO LIMIT SOLDIERS

Posted in Rants on April 2nd, 2014 by Ed

To the surprise of many people who just emerged from an underground bunker and haven't read the news since 1960, the Supreme Court struck down on Wednesday limits on federal campaign contributions. In other words, it struck down a law that will affect primarily House races; 2012 showed that all bets are already off in the presidential race and this ruling is unlikely to make that situation any more ridiculous. "Slouching toward plutocracy"? You must have fallen asleep in the passenger seat, friend. We reached plutocracy four years ago.

The following is a sentiment I have used this forum to express previously but it bears repeating: there already exists no meaningful limit to the amount of money an interested party can pour into federal elections. There are no billionaire donors who were foiled in 2012, for example, by any existing laws. All of the money is already getting in, and in the special case of the presidential race it has reached the point of diminishing returns. There is only so much spending a campaign can do and the marginal benefit of running a commercial 8000 times in the Dayton media market instead of 7000 times is vanishingly small. In that spirit, the recent decision may be a useful reminder that the Supreme Court is firmly under right-wing control until someone does us the favor of dying. What it does not do is make a meaningful difference in the amount of money that will be spent in congressional races. They're already obscenely expensive and everyone who wants to pour in more money already has plenty of available options for doing so.

When it comes to campaign financing, the presidential and congressional races are a distraction from the real problem – money being poured into state and local races in which huge infusions of outside cash can and do alter outcomes. Throwing an additional million dollars into a Senate race is the equivalent of pissing into Lake Michigan. However, pouring $100,000 into ten state legislative or judicial elections – elections in which the amount of money spent is comparatively low – can be decisive. Increasing Hillary Clinton's war chest by 0.1% makes no difference; tripling the war chest of some yahoo Sunday School teacher from Bargle County running for the State House on an anti-Sharia plank does.

No right we have is completely without limits, and that includes the 1st Amendment under which campaign spending (as "political speech") falls. What this Court will consider an acceptable limit on this right appears to be so small and mysterious as to be inconsequential in practice or theory. Under these circumstances, the presidential and congressional campaign finance situation is beyond saving. Just forget about it. The amount of money being spent has doubled every four years for the last several decades and will continue to do so. The problem is that the money is starting to pour into low-attention races at an alarming rate. Worse yet, the Court's position hampers any state-level efforts to pass meaningful regulations.

This is bad and it is going to get worse.