The Free Press, Mankato, MN


April 4, 2014

Our View: Voting still trumps money in politics

Why it matters: The Supreme Court struck down limits on campaign contributions in a ruling that will allow more special interest money into elections

The U.S. Supreme Court ruling that struck down limits on aggregate campaign contributions for individual donors likely left many voters disheartened that once again their influence in representative democracy was further eroded.

The ruling makes it easy to conclude that money talks in our constitutional democracy and the Supreme Court just gave wealthy donors a megaphone.

We hope voters and non-voters see it differently.

The Supreme Court ruling should be a clarion call if not a three alarm fire to prompt the average voter to get even more engaged in not only voting but grass roots democracy.

We don’t have to look far to see how big money campaigns still failed because their messages didn’t resonate with voters.

In Minnesota history, we need only go back to the first election of former Sen. Paul Wellstone in 1990.

His challenger, incumbent Rudy Boschwitz, outspent Wellstone seven to one. Wellstone rode a populist message to victory in a state that had elected dozens of Republicans to state and national offices just a decade earlier.

Still, overcoming such a barrage of talking points and attack ads that are designed to appeal to our worst fears and ingrained biases is still no small task. It’s not easier with supposedly “objective” and “balanced” national broadcast media taking sides like they’ve never taken before.

If they don’t take sides, they focus on the controversies and personalities instead of the issues.

The Supreme Court ruling will likely amplify that campaign noise and static and ultimate deception.

The court essentially allowed individuals to contribute the limit for one campaign to as many campaigns or committees as they desire. Previous election law had set a limit of a total of about $123,000 per election cycle.

The ruling would allow individuals to now donate up to $3.6 million through various means that could eventually flow directly to a candidate or a party committee, according to a report in the Washington Post.

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