Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Federal appeals court strikes down WI campaign finance limits

Campaign finance limits preserve rights of the disadvantaged to have equal access to the political process

The recent ruling by a federal court of appeals that lifts the $10,000 individual limit on campaign donations to third-party political action committees is nothing short of horrendous. It isn't a defense of speech rights, as the court that issued the ruling asserts. Rather, it's an expansion of the abuse of said rights that the wealthy and privileged classes hold over the vast majority of the American populace.

Speech rights are a wonderful thing, an ideal worth defending to the utmost degree. The freedom to speak your mind and to have your piece heard is something many of us take for granted in this country, a democratic tool we utilize daily without truly understanding that much of the world still lives without this basic right protected.

Yet, when abuses of that right (or of any right, really) restrains other significant rights of the people, restrictions upon that privilege, when administered in a way that preserves the basic functions of our most honored principles, are justly enforced. That's to say, when you start using your rights as a means to diminish someone else's livelihood, the government, as an arbitrator and nothing more, should step in to ensure that no abuse of any privilege should conflict with the properly used rights of others.

A legitimate argument can be made that campaign finance limits (on individuals and/or corporations) are such tools used to preserve the rights of those with modest incomes. While some courts may argue that such laws hamper the ability of the rich to disseminate their views, very little consideration is given to the working class individual who may only be able to spare $50 (or less) per year towards the political causes of their choosing. Despite their significantly lower incomes, these individuals deserve the same -- and equal -- political rights as those with 100 times their annual salaries.

And yet, we're somehow led to believe their rights are preserved when we require the poor to whisper their ideals and opinions, while those with the ability to contribute more capital towards political committees (like, for example, the Koch brothers) are granted the use of 10 megaphones lined up in a row to express their speech rights? The analogy is not that far off (in fact, it's likely short of what's now reality) -- the poor are at a indescribable disadvantage when it comes to how much "speech" they're allowed to utilize as compared to those, say, in the top one percent.

Reform is sorely needed in the form of a constitutional amendment at the federal level, to allow both national and state governments the ability to preserve speech rights for all Americans, not just those with deep pocketbooks. Democracy should never be for sale, an item to be placed on the auction block and available to the highest bidder. It belongs to everyone, equally, to take part in the political process, whether rich or poor.

The people of Wisconsin, and all across the nation, deserve much better treatment, a proper defense of their rights versus the abuse of power the wealthy may sometimes hold over them.

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