To the editor of THE EAGLE:
Just when we were starting to see some progress in getting big money out of politics (i. e. the McCain-Feingold Act), the Citizens United vs. Federal Election (FEC) decision made by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2010 seemed to come out of nowhere and thrust us dangerously in the wrong direction. The court’s 5-4 decision not only removed limitations on corporate spending in federal elections, it also eliminated the requirement placed on candidates to disclose their sources of funding to the public. The floodgates opened wide and total spending for the 2012 election cycle exceeded all estimates and expectations at $7 billion, according to FEC Chair Ellen Weintraub. That kind of money can only be acquired from the wealthiest of donors: the special interests of big business and their lobbyists. Our elected officials subsequently became beholden to big money interests like never before.
Soon, it is likely to get worse. Any time between Feb. 24 and the end of June, the Supreme Court will announce its decision in the McCutcheon vs. FEC case. This decision will determine whether the limit on political campaign contributions from individuals, now at $123,200 per election cycle and more than twice the annual median income in the country, will be increased to as much as $6 million (that’s right, six million dollars). If the Citizens United case is a precedent, then it is likely that the Court will rule in favor of McCutcheon, and our political finance system will be flooded by enormous amounts of special interest money coming from a very small number of exceedingly wealthy individuals.
Democracy is not a spectator sport. If you would like to join the hundreds of thousands of Americans of all political persuasions who are fed up with an increasingly polluted campaign finance system and are actively organizing for change, please do two things. First, learn about the issues. Good websites to start with are democracyisforpeople.org, moneyout-votersin.org and movetoamend.org.
While you are on the Money Out/Voters In site, go to the Find an Event section and sign up to participate in one of the Rapid Response events that will be held all across the country on the day that the McCutcheon ruling is made. There will be one event held in Pittsfield and one in Great Barrington. See you there.