Friday, January 22, 2010

Campaign financing: First Amendment used to change laws in US and in Arizona

In two days, six judges have altered decades of campaign finance reform to favor the rich and well-connected.
Two court rulings this week--one by the US Supreme Court and another by a US District Court Judge--have left progressives reeling. Ironically, both decisions are based upon the First Amendment of the US Constitution.

On Thursday, January 21, the Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision ruled that limiting campaign contributions from corporations limits their freedom of speech. This decision is based upon the legal precedent of corporate personhood, which gives corporations the same rights as "natural persons" (AKA real people). To learn more about corporate personhood, check out this movie-- The Corporation.

President Obama said this ruling gives "a green light to a new stampede of special interest money in our politics" and has instructed the Congress to work on revised campaign finance reform legislation.

On Wednesday, January 20, 9th District Court Judge Roslyn Silver ruled that state matching funds given to Clean Elections candidates limits the freedom of speech of their opponents who are not running as Clean Elections candidates. The rationale is that the candidates who are running traditionally would somehow limit their fundraising because it would essentially give their Clean Elections opponents more matching funds. Silver did not strike down all of the Clean Elections legislation--just the matching funds section that brings "clean" candidates coffers up to the funding levels of their opponents. Silver has given the proponents of Clean Elections 10 days to appeal her ruling.

Arizona's Clean Elections law was created by the voters in 1998. According to the Clean Elections Commission, close to 90 individuals--including several in Pima County--have qualified as Clean Elections candidates for the 2010 elections cycle. Some are suggesting that implementation of this decision be delayed until after the 2010 elections.

Where do we go from here?

This article was originally published in my Progressive Examiner column.

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