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ON DAY OF ORAL ARGUMENT IN MCCUTCHEON V. FEC, LOCAL GROUPS GATHER TO PUSH BACK ON BIG MONEY IN POLITICS, DEMAND SOLUTIONS
ST LOUIS – Today MoPIRG, Missouri Sierra Club, Saint Louis NAACP, and the Vice-Chair of the Missouri House Ethics Committee gathered at the Old Courthouse in Saint Louis to push back on the power of big money in elections, as the U.S. Supreme Court today heard oral arguments in McCutcheon v. FEC. A simultaneous rally at the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C. drew hundreds of activists and dozens of organizations from across a wide spectrum – from good government groups and civic organizations to labor and environmental groups. Advocates say the case would further increase the electoral clout of a few large donors.
In the case, Alabama donor Shaun McCutcheon will ask to strike down the overall limit on what an individual can give to federal candidates, parties, and PACs in a two year election cycle. That limit currently stands at $123,200 – over twice the average household income in the U.S. In 2012, only 1,219 donors came within 10% of hitting the aggregate limit. New research from MoPIRG and Demos projects that if the limit is lifted, this small set of donors would raise their giving and inject an additional $1 billion in campaign contributions through the 2020 elections.
The Supreme Court has never struck down a federal contribution limit, maintaining that these limits are constitutional because they prevent corruption and the appearance of corruption. The groups argue that right now, when confidence in Congress is at an all-time low, it would be extremely unwise to toss aside that precedent.
“Most Americans do not feel that our voices are being heard on Capitol Hill, and who could blame us? In Citizens United the Supreme Court handed a giant megaphone to the wealthiest interests, and today it will consider turning up the volume even higher,” said Alec Sprague, Federal Advocate for MoPIRG. “The last thing we need right now is to increase the giving of the donors with the deepest pockets. Rather, we should be empowering small donors so that ordinary Americans can provide the funds needed to run campaigns.”
“Conservationists are fond of repeating a John Muir quote that ‘everything is connected’. And that is the case here too,” said Caroline Pufalt, conservation chair with Missouri Sierra Club. “When critical decisions about legislation and funding are influenced disproportionately by contributions from supporters of polluting industries and climate deniers, our people and our land will suffer. “
Advocates are calling on Congress to create a small donor empowerment program, with a tax credit for small contributions and matching funds for candidates that actively seek out funds from a broad swath of their constituents. Such a measure would encourage more public participation in electoral finance and counteract big money in elections by amplifying the voice of the American public.
“We should be concerned about public policy in Missouri and public policy is based on results,” said Rory Ellinger, Representative for University City and Vice-Chair of the Ethics Committee in the Missouri House of Representatives. “We need to reintroduce meaningful ethics and campaign finance laws here in Missouri, otherwise we have a small oligarchy of wealthy individuals that candidates are listening more and more.”
“It's time to restore voter confidence in Congress by limiting the role of Big-Money interests in Federal Campaigns,” said Adolphus Pruitt, President of Saint Louis NAACP. “Elections should be about the American dream, not the dreams of big money.”
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