By Jason KUROSU
On Tuesday, April 1, the Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision that contributors to political campaigns can spend much more freely than has been permitted in decades. The case, McCutcheon vs. the Federal Election Commission, struck down prior limits to campaign expenditures on the basis of a contributor’s First Amendment right to endorse the candidates of their choice.
The plaintiff, Alabama businessman Shaun McCutcheon, donated to multiple candidates in 2012 and had hoped to donate to several more, but was not permitted to do so because of the aggregate limit. After the ruling, individuals may contribute as much as $48,600 total to individual candidates. However, limits still exist as far as an individual contributing to another individual’s campaign, with the limit being $2,600 per election.
The ruling has reignited the debate over the influence of money in the nation’s political campaigns and candidate choices, issues that date back to the Watergate scandal, which prompted the limits set in the 1974 Federal Election Campaign Act and more recently in the Citizens United vs. the Federal Election Commission decision, which removed limits on contributions from corporations, associations or labor unions.
The ruling generated protests nationwide, including one from a group of local residents who set up shop on the corner of Ocean View Boulevard and Honolulu Avenue in Montrose.
La Crescenta resident Laurie Myres brought the protestors together, adorned with American flags and signs provided by Public Citizen, a nonprofit organization that has outwardly opposed the decision.
“This is going to kill democracy,” Myres said, while holding a sign that read “Money is not free speech.” Myres and the other protestors passed out literature to pedestrians and received supportive honks from a few passing motorists.
Former La Crescenta and current Sunland resident Janice Swan noted that the number of honks was relatively low, a sign of the public’s apathy with the current political landscape.
“People are just sick of it,” said Swan. “I think they’ve come to expect that maybe not much is going to change.”
The protest group also had a petition on hand, which would call upon Congress to amend and overturn campaign finance cases such as Citizens United and McCutcheon.
“It sets a bad precedent,” said Swan in reference to the McCutcheon ruling.
Myres hoped that the protest to the ruling would help people see past partisan lines as the ruling could aid opposing party leaders at election time.
“I didn’t want this to be about parties, Republicans or Democrats. This is about people.”