Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Only The Very Wealthy Need Apply

Yesterday, the Supreme Court of the United States issued an order striking down a significant provision in Arizona's election law which enabled the less-than-wealthy to run for public office. Today, an editorial in the New York Times decried that order and what it portends for elections in the future all over the nation.

It seems likely that the Roberts court will use this case to continue its destruction of the laws and systems set up in recent decades to reduce the influence of big money in politics. By the time it is finished, millionaires and corporations will have regained an enormous voice in American politics, at the expense of candidates who have to raise money the old-fashioned way and, ultimately, at the expense of voters. ...

The [Arizona] system gives qualifying candidates a lump-sum grant for their primary or general election races in exchange for which the candidates agree not to raise large private contributions. If an opposing candidate is not participating in the system and spends more than the lump-sum grant, the participating candidate qualifies for additional matching funds.

It was those matching funds that produced a challenge from well-financed candidates, backed by the Goldwater Institute and other conservative interests. The candidates argued that the matching funds “chilled” their freedom of speech because they were afraid to spend more than the limit that triggered the funds. A lower court agreed with that pretzel logic, but last month a panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit disagreed. It said the speech of the plaintiffs had not been chilled. “The essence of this claim is not that they have been silenced,” the panel said, “but that the speech of their opponents has been enabled.”
[Emphasis added]

What the Supreme Court has done is to ensure that only the wealthy, primarily those with solid gold connections to the businesses which enabled that wealth, will successfully run for office. The people

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