By Robert Barnes, Published: April 2
The Supreme Court’s divisive decision Wednesday striking down a Watergate-era limit on campaign contributions was the latest milestone for conservative justices who are disassembling a campaign finance regime they feel violates free-speech rights.
The 5 to 4 decision — striking down the limit on the total amount of money wealthy donors can contribute to candidates and political committees — was the fifth since Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. joined the court that agreed with constitutional arguments challenging laws designed to blunt the influence of money in politics.
It again reveals a court deeply divided between liberals trying to preserve campaign finance restrictions they say are essential to ensuring democracy is not distorted by the wealth of the powerful, and conservatives who think the First Amendment trumps efforts by the government to control who pays for elections and how much they spend.
“There is no right more basic in our democracy than the right to participate in electing our political leaders,” Roberts wrote in the court’s main opinion. “We have made clear that Congress may not regulate contributions simply to reduce the amount of money in politics, or to restrict the political participation of some in order to enhance the relative influence of others.”
The liberal justices sharply disagreed, with Justice Stephen G. Breyer reading his dissent from the bench to emphasize the disagreement. The dissent said the ruling expands on a wrong-headed hostility to campaign finance laws that the court’s conservatives showed in the landmark 2010 case Citizens United v. FEC, which allowed corporate spending on elections.
“If Citizens United opened a door, today’s decision, we fear, will open a floodgate,” Breyer said. He added that the ruling “overturns key precedent, creates serious loopholes in the law and undermines, perhaps devastates, what remains of campaign finance reform.”
On its face, the ruling seems far more limited than Citizens United, which has dramatically increased spending on campaigns and spawned a new wave of political organizations funded by wealthy individuals.
But by making clear that government may restrict political contributions only to target quid pro quo corruption — as opposed to “the general gratitude a candidate may feel toward those who support him or his allies, or the political access such support may afford” — the dissenters and others said the court was inviting additional challenges to campaign finance restrictions.
The ruling “may represent the latest step in an effort by a majority of the court to dismantle entirely the long-standing structure of campaign finance law erected to limit the undue influence of special interests on American politics,” said Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who sponsored the 2002 Bipartisan Campaign Finance Reform Act with then-Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.).
Justices Antonin Scalia and Anthony M. Kennedy joined Roberts and Alito. Justice Clarence Thomas provided the crucial fifth vote for overturning the limits but said the others should have gone further to strike down all contribution limits.
The court’s decisions on campaign finance provide one of the most dramatic examples of how the court shifted when the conservative Alito replaced the more moderate Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. O’Connor was in the majority that upheld the McCain-Feingold law. Alito has swung the court to side with challengers to such laws.
He has been in the majority as the court has eased restrictions on organizations that air ads that discuss candidates in the closing days of a campaign; struck down a part of the McCain-Feingold law that increased contribution limits for candidates who faced wealthy, self-funding opponents; and struck down Arizona’s public finance system, which had a similar provision.
Most prominent has been the Citizens United decision, which was deeply unpopular, according to polls. Roberts seemed to acknowledge that in his ruling.
“Money in politics may at times seem repugnant to some, but so too does much of what the First Amendment vigorously protects,” Roberts wrote. “If the First Amendment protects flag burning, funeral protests and Nazi parades — despite the profound offense such spectacles cause — it surely protects political campaign speech despite popular opposition.”
Wednesday’s decision concerns a restriction that few Americans knew about and fewer could afford to violate — a limit on the total amount of money an individual can contribute in a two-year period to candidates and political committees.
The limits capped at $48,600 the amount an individual could spend on contributions to candidates, plus $74,600 total on contributions to political parties and committees.
The court did not disturb the limit on how much an individual may contribute to a specific candidate, currently $2,600 per election. But Roberts said an individual should be able to contribute that amount to as many candidates as he chooses.
“An aggregate limit on how many candidates and committees an individual may support through contributions is not a modest restraint at all,” Roberts wrote. “The government may no more restrict how many candidates or causes a donor may support than it may tell a newspaper how many candidates it may endorse.”
Republican Party officials cheered the opinion. The ruling “is an important first step toward restoring the voice of candidates and party committees and a vindication for all those who support robust, transparent political discourse,” said Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, which brought the case with Shaun McCutcheon, an Alabama businessman.
At the heart of the case is the framework created by the court’s seminal 1976 Buckley v. Valeo decision, which upheld limits on campaign contributions that Congress put in place two years earlier in response to the Watergate scandal.
That ruling drew a distinction between contributions, which the court said could be limited to prevent corruption or the appearance of corruption, and expenditures, which the court determined were a form of direct personal expression.
That decision led to the current lopsided campaign system, in which donors can give a federal candidate only $2,600 per election but can donate endless sums to super PACs, which must spend their money independently of candidates and parties.
Wednesday’s decision showed the incremental approach to change that Roberts champions. For instance, he said the decision did not overrule Buckley, even though that earlier decision had upheld the aggregate limits.
Instead, he said, the court was “confronted with a different statute and different legal arguments, at a different point in the development of campaign finance regulation.”
Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan joined Breyer’s dissent, which highlighted the court’s fundamental disagreement over the constitutionality of the federal campaign finance regime.
“The First Amendment advances not only the individual’s right to engage in political speech, but also the public’s interest in preserving a democratic order in which collective speech matters,” Breyer wrote.
“Where enough money calls the tune, the general public will not be heard . . . And a cynical public can lose interest in political participation altogether.”
Breyer said Wednesday’s ruling could not be squared with the court’s 2002 endorsement of the McCain-Feingold act and the justices’ view at the time that campaign finance restrictions were meant to thwart a broader definition of corruption, including “privileged access to and pernicious influence upon elected officials.”
Breyer advanced arguments made by the Obama administration and campaign finance reform advocates that removing the aggregate limits would create huge loopholes. An individual he called “Rich Donor” could write a check for $3.6 million to benefit his political party and its candidates because of the loopholes, he said.
Roberts took issue with that. The scenarios sketched by the dissenters and the government, Roberts wrote, “are either illegal under current campaign finance laws or divorced from reality.”
Nevertheless, he said, there are additional steps Congress could take to outlaw methods donors might use to circumvent the rules.
Breyer responded that Roberts’s reliance on a gridlocked Congress to pass new laws or the Federal Election Commission to enforce current ones showed a political naivete.
Given what he said was the FEC’s record of inactivity, “my reaction to the plurality’s reliance upon agency enforcement of this rule (as an adequate substitute for Congress’ aggregate limits) is like Oscar Wilde’s after reading Dickens’ account of the death of Little Nell: ‘One must have a heart of stone,’ said Wilde, ‘to read [it] without laughing.’ ”
The case is McCutcheon v. FEC.
Thursday, April 3, 2014
Friday, February 28, 2014
The federal budget deficit fell faster last year than in any year since the end of World War II, according to a Treasury Department report on Thursday. It declined from $1.1 trillion in 2012 to $680 billion in 2013. That represents the smallest deficit since 2008 in nominal terms. It’s now 4.1 percent of GDP, dropping from a high of more than 10 percent during the depths of the recession. It’s less than half of what it was in 2009, when the recession ended. CREDIT: New York Times The good news is that part of the decline is being driven by higher tax revenue as the economy slowly recovers. “Growth in tax revenue from an improving economy accounted for much of the decline in the deficit,” Annie Lowrey at the New York Times reports. Tax revenue increased $234 billion over last year, reaching $2.8 trillion, growth of about 12.9 percent.
Tuesday, February 25, 2014
At Least 5 People Were Accidentally Shot In A Single Day This Week By Rebecca Leber and Zack Beauchamp on February 22, 2013 at 10:30 am Travin Varise, who was accidentally shot and killed last month While gun accidents make up a comparatively small portion of American firearm deaths (the vast majority are intentional homicides or suicides), accidental firearm injury and death is still shockingly common, underlining the scale of America’s gun problem. Every day, local media report several cases where someone accidentally shoots himself or a friend or family member, sometimes fatally. We counted at least five gun accidents on Wednesday: 1. A 4-year-old girl was shot in the leg by a family member who was putting his gun away. 2. A 3-year-old boy found a handgun under the mattress in his parents’ bendroom and shot a family friend in the head. 3. A member of the Air Force pulled the trigger on his gun, reportedly thinking it was unloaded, and sent a bullet that hit a 14-month-old baby in the hand in a nearby apartment. 4. A woman reportedly spun her handgun around and pointed it at her head. She died of a gunshot wound to the head. 5. A 3-year-old was fatally shot in what police said appeared to be a tragic accident. Children are especially vulnerable to gun violence, either intentional or accidental. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 129 children between age 1-19 died in gun accidents in 2010 (even more take their own lives using a gun belonging to a parent). A Harvard study linked prevalence of guns to unintentional gun-related deaths, finding that the four states with the highest gun ownership rates had mortality rates seven times higher than the four states with the lowest ownership rates. There’s no real evidence suggesting that family homes with guns are less likely to be victims of crime than ones without deadly weapons.
Sunday, February 23, 2014
The Effingham County Democrats held what hopes to be their annual soup supper on Saturday evening, February 22 at the Effingham American Legion. With a large turnout of Effingham County Democrats along with many of our friends from neighboring counties such as Shelby and Jasper Counties, it was an evening to restate the values that all Democrats hold in common.
Those who attended were able to meet and talk with Effingham County Board candidate Doug McCain and Effingham County Treasurer Candidate Steve Dasenbrock. Retired Judge Jim Harvey gave a rousing speech that reiterated what Democrats do stand for and what Republicans don't stand for.
He was followed by Circuit Judge Candidate Ericka Sanders who discussed her reasons for wanting to run for the position. She currently holds the position of Associate Judge and wished to continue many of the proactive programs that are occurring here in our own county.
Dr. Josh Berger, state representative candidate for the 107th district followed. Explain his reasons for running. Dr. Berger, a chiropractor who practices in Centralia discussed how the actions or inaction in Springfield is impacting his hometown and southern Illinois. He stated that he wants to be the person in Springfield who works on behalf of southern Illinois, and not merely the one who falls in line with his party leaders, unlike his opponent.
Eric Thorsland, candidate for U.S. Representative for the 15th District in Illinois, spoke of his desire to break the continuous run of his opponent's reelection to the U.S. House. He reminded those present that Mr. Shimkus, when elected the first time, stated he would only serve two terms. If Mr. Shimkus would be successful, this would be his tenth consecutive term. Ironically, many statewide candidates of the same party of Mr. Shimkus are calling for term limits. Mr. Thorsland spoke of his upbringing and how his father was a victim of President Reagan's union breaking action of firing of the air traffic controllers in the early 1980s. Mr. Thorsland vowed to work for his district rather than being the representative who didn't rock the boat in order to ensure his own reelection.
Finally the evening ended with special guest, current Illinois Lieutenant Governor, and current candidate for Illinois Comptroller, Sheila Simon. Ms. Simon mentioned her upbringing and the values that her father, the late Senator Paul Simon, had instilled in her regarding holding elected office. She discussed how important it was as a politician to be honest, hardworking, and to have transparency has a candidate and in the office that is being held. She remarked how she was working diligently with Illinois State Senator Andy Manar(D)Bunker Hill in reevaluating how school funding works in the state of Illinois. This would have a profound positive impact on schools in Effingham County and other surrounding counties. Ms. Simon also discussed how she wishes move the Illinois Comptroller's office from the capacity of an accounting agency for government to a resource for all local government entities to use to evaluate how they are spending tax dollars and where the could be more wisely invested and managed.
As the evening closed, all of the candidates and speakers remained to meet with all those in attendance. The Effingham County Democrats will be planning numerous other events throughout the year to continue to draw attention to the issues that concern southern Illinois and the candidates who will speak on behalf on the constituents of southern Illinois.
Saturday, February 22, 2014
Guns kill a lot of young people in the United States. Not just in school shootings or horrific “accidents” between toddlers that tend to garner the most media attention, but in every day shootings in communities around the country that result in the deaths of thousands of children and teenagers. In 2010, 6,201 young people between the ages of 15 and 24 died by gunfire. Guns were a close second to the leading cause of death among this age group, car accidents, which took the lives of 7,024 young people that year. But, while car accident deaths among young people have been steadily declining over the past decade, gun deaths have remained relatively unchanged. And, as described in a new Center for American Progress report released Friday, if current trends continue, gun deaths will surpass car accident deaths among young people sometime in 2015: How can we explain these numbers? For car accident deaths, these numbers represent a significant victory. Deaths of young people as a result of car accidents have dropped dramatically in the last two decades, from a high of more than 12,000 deaths among this age group in 1990. This decline is not an accident: billions of dollars have been spent on public health and safety research to understand motor vehicle accidents and how to prevent them from becoming fatal. This research has resulted in design innovation, changes to cars and roadways, and new laws that have led to a significant and steady decline in such fatalities among all age groups, including young people. There was no silver bullet for reducing vehicular death: airbags, seatbelt laws, anti-lock brakes, better signage, and tough drunk driving laws all contributed to it. But, in combination these measures have saved tens of thousands of American lives. For guns, these numbers represent an enormous failure. The United States has experienced a dramatic decline in violent crime over the last two decades, yet the rate of gun violence, particularly among young people, has barely moved. Why? We don’t know. Unfortunately, since the early 1990s, very few public health researchers have been trying to find out. Restrictions on such research imposed by Congress have had a substantial chilling effect, which has resulted in the almost total abandonment of this issue by our nation’s public health research institutions. Without this research, policymakers, legislators, community leaders, and parents are left without much direction regarding how to best protect children and teenagers from gun violence. As we approach that morbid milestone next year when gun violence kills more American children and teenagers than car accidents, it’s time to start approaching this problem in the same manner as we addressed car accident deaths. We know how to do this –-through a combination of public health research, technological innovation, legislative change, enhanced enforcement, and transforming cultural norms we were able to make motor vehicle transportation safer while at the same time preserving American’s unique car culture. We can do the same thing with gun violence by adopting laws and policies designed to prevent gun deaths while protecting the rights of law-abiding gun owners. Chelsea Parsons is the Associate Director for Crime and Firearms Policy at the Center for American Progress.
Monday, February 17, 2014
Sunday, February 16, 2014
Next monthly meeting Wed. Feb. 19 @ 7PM. Don't forget about our Soup Supper Sat. Feb. 22 from 5:30 to 7:30PM @ the American Legion Hall. Guests Sheila Simon, Judge Erika Sanders, Dr. Josh Berger, Steve Dasenbrock, Karen Luchtefeld, & Doug McCain.
Tuesday, January 28, 2014
Guns hurt or kill 10,000 children in the U.S. each year: study Linda Carroll, NBC News contributor Facebook Share on Facebook Twitter LinkedIn GooglePlus Email Jan. 27, 2014 at 12:41 AM ET Win McNamee / Getty Images Diana Aguilar (L) and Tonya Burch (R) hold photos of their children during a press conference at the U.S. Capitol calling for gun reform legislation and marking the 9 month anniversary of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary school September 18, 2013 in Washington, DC. School shootings unnerve Americans, but the number of children injured or killed in those tragic events is just a fraction of the young people harmed by firearms each year in the United States, a new study finds. Injuries from firearms send more than 7,000 kids to the hospital annually, an average of 20 per day. Among those admitted to the hospital, 6 percent die from their injuries, according to the study published in Pediatrics Monday. “That’s more than 7,000 children injured badly enough to be hospitalized,” said Dr. John Leventhal, the study’s lead author and a professor of pediatrics at the Yale School of Medicine. “All are unnecessary hospitalizations because preventing gun violence is something that can actually be done.” In addition to children hospitalized for gun injuries, another 3,000 die before they can make it to the emergency room, meaning guns hurt or kill about 10,000 American children each year, Leventhal said. Previous research has tracked hospitalizations of Americans due to firearms, but the new study is the first to look just at children. Studying the 2009 Kids’ Inpatient Database (KID), which tracks pediatric hospital stays, the Yale researchers discovered 7,391 children under age 20 had been hospitalized for firearm related injuries, with 453 of those patients dying. The data in KID has been gathered since 1997 as part of the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project on behalf of the Department of Health and Human Services, with 2009 the most recent release. Most of the injuries, 4,559, resulted from assaults, while 2,149 were from accidents and 270, the result of suicide attempts. The most common types of injury, were open wounds at 52 percent and fractures at 50 percent. Brain injuries were more common in the younger kids, most of whom were hurt in accidental shootings. Brain and spinal cord injuries accounted for one-seventh of the injuries. The aftermath of those types of injuries can be devastating, Leventhal said. Earlier studies, which looked at child mortality related to firearms found about 3,000 deaths a year, experts said. “This study reinforces what we know from the mortality data,” said Daniel Webster, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research. “We have an extraordinary health burden in our youth associated with firearms injuries.” In that, the U.S. stands out, Webster said. “When you look at firearms-related mortality in the United States compared to other high income nations, our rates are roughly 10-fold higher,” he said. “This is a very unique and abnormal problem that such a wealthy nation should have such high mortality and morbidity in youth related to firearms.” The new study “highlights the critical effect that firearms are having on children’s health and safety,” said Patrick Tolan, a professor of education and psychiatry at the University of Virginia and director of the Youth-Nex, the U. Va. Center for Positive Youth Development. “It’s clear that this needs to be a part of the conversation about firearms. There’s been such a strong focus on whether somebody’s liberty might be fettered.” The high number of accidental injuries, especially in the youngest children, underscores the need for parents to keep guns locked in a safe place that is separate from where ammunition is stowed and secured, Leventhal said. One change that could make a big difference, Webster said, is to make it illegal for anyone under 21 to own a handgun. “In order to drink beer legally you have to be 21,” he said. “While you have to be 21 to purchase a handgun from a dealer, if you’re an 18-year-old you can go to a private seller and legally purchase a handgun in 45 out of 50 states.” If you look at homicide as a function of age, you’ll see that there is a peak between 18 and 20, Webster said. “So for this very high risk group of 18- to 20-year olds, we think it’s too dangerous to drink beer, but in 45 states they can legally possess as many handguns as they like. “We have weak laws, and for that we pay a dear cost.” Tags: Kids' health, Health Share on Facebook Discuss 700 From around the web Causes, Symptoms & Treatment of Eye Floaters (See for Yourself) World's first 3D printed metal gun blows through 50 rounds (PC World) 9 Things You Should Never, Ever Say to Your Husband (SparkPeople) Arrest warrant issued for Suge Knight (V103) Tila Tequila Claims Paul Walker Was Murdered (Fame10) Think Before You Facebook (Property Casualty 360) More from NBCNews.com Gabrielle Union joins Conan O’Brien and reveals ‘I’m on the porn diet’ (theGrio) ‘Garage’ magazine editor-in-chief sits on chair supported by nearly-naked black woman (theGrio) Dark skin, blue eyes: Genes paint a picture of 7,000-year-old European (NBC News) W.Va. teen sentenced to life in friend's killing (NBC News) Wave of store closings expected to hit retail (NBC News) New York police chief charged with possessing child pornography (NBC News)
On Feb 22, from 0530 to 0730, the Effingham County Democrats will host Sheila Simon at a soup supper. We are happy to have in attendance Dr. Josh Berger, our candidate for State representative in the 107th district; Eric Thorsland, our candidate for congress in the 15th district; Erika Sanders, our candidate for Circuit Judge of the 4thJudicial District; Doug McCain and Karen Luchtefeld, our county board representatives and Steve Dasenbrock, our County Treasurer. Please join us for a great and informative evening at the American Legion Hall at 200 West Washington in Effingham.
Wednesday, January 15, 2014
Sunday, January 12, 2014
Our next monthy meeting Wed. Jan. 15 7PM @ the County Building. Guest include Dr. Josh Berger candidate For State Rep. for the 107th District, Eric Thorsland candidate for Congress 15th District, and Ericka Sanders Candidate for Circuit Judge. Hope to see you there!
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