Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Danger, Clear and Present

Let's see: a few hundred very wealthy men and women, through a network of PACs and so-called "social welfare" corporations have been able to take control of the United States Congress and to shutdown the United Ststes government, by swamping Republican primaries with expensive media campaigns. At least four justices of the Supreme Court nevertheless seemed puzzled by the question put to them yesterday, whether there should be any limit at all on aggregate donations by a single individual during a federal election cycle. The billionaires, you see, have a First Amendment right to free speech.

The admirable Scotus Blog has an excellent summary of yesterday's oral arguments in McCutcheon v. FEC, the Republican challenge to limits on total campaign spending by individuals.
When the argument ended, there was no clear sign of consensus on the Court: although it seems likely that at least five of the nine Justices will strike down one of the aggregate limits, there was a chance that another would survive.
Some of the justices, sitting in the midst of the chaos that has descended on Washington, nevertheless seem not to see that unlimited spending by billionaires might pose a clear and present danger, one that resembles falsely shouting fire in a theater, and causing a panic. . . .