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January 22nd, 2010 By | News | Posted In: Campaign Finance, Courts, Public Policy

Common Cause, Others Fight Court Ruling

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This week’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling that allows corporations to make unlimited contributions to political campaigns has been widely criticized by many moderates and progressives as an action that could distort democracy and confuse the electorate.

Now Common Cause/Ohio is joining the wave of opposition, calling the decision “a major blow to established campaign reforms and to the democratic process itself.”

The high court voted 5-4 to remove campaign spending limits on corporations. Overturning nearly 100 years of judicial precedent that allowed governments at all levels to limit the influence of corporations on elections through large contributions, the court’s majority opinion ruled that First Amendment rights of free speech trumped any restrictions on corporate campaign spending.

“In the name of free speech, the five justices who signed off on (this week's) decision have further tilted the political playing field in favor of ‘big money,’ and diminished the free speech of those who don’t have access to great wealth,” said William Woods, chairman of Common Cause/Ohio.

“A healthy democracy requires that all candidates for public office have a fair chance to communicate their messages to the citizens who will vote,” Woods added. “‘Big money’ has already had a warping impact on today’s campaigns, and the Court’s decision in (the case) will greatly magnify this trend.”

Like several other activist groups, Common Cause pledged to work with state and federal lawmakers to draft new initiatives aimed at ending excessive corporate influence on elections. In common Cause’s case, it advocates implementing public financing of political campaigns.

Work is already underway to offset the decision, which has been blasted by President Obama, many Democrats and various good government groups.

Congressman Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) has filed six campaign finance reform bills this week, according to Raw Story. One of the bills would impose a 500 percent excise tax on corporate spending on elections.

Grayson has created a Web site to gather signatures in support of the bills. Within the first 24 hours of its activation, it had received more than 40,000 signatures.

Other groups like MoveOn.org and Credo Action also have started similar petitions.

 
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