Last Thursday, the Supreme Court overturned campaign finance reform legislation established in the McCain-Feingold Act of 2002.
While the concrete effects of the decision remain to be seen, the ruling can potentially affect the way students learn about and influence both local and national elections.
Penn Democrats President and College sophomore Emma Ellman-Golan said she is worried that the reduced regulation of corporate spending could scale up the money used in campaigns, possibly drowning out voices without substantial financial backing.
Under the previous legislation, corporations and unions were restricted in their spending to influence campaigns. Individuals, however, have always been able to create their own advertisements — provided they had the money to do so. Corporations and unions were barred from doing this.
In a 5-4 vote, the court ruled that these restrictions were in violation of corporations’ and unions’ First Amendment rights.
Political analyst and St. Joseph’s University history professor Randall Miller said it is still too early to know for sure how this will affect campaigns in the future.
According to Miller, many unions and corporations will be wary of getting involved in politics. He added that as of now, both political parties do not want to commit to contributions from corporations.
College Republicans President and Wharton senior Peter Devine called the ruling a win for the First Amendment, explaining that people should be able to do what they want with their money.
Ellman-Golan did not share these views. She said the decision was not a good one for healthcare reform in particular.
Health insurance companies will now be more capable of voicing their objections during elections, Ellman-Golan said.
However, according to Miller, companies affecting politics is nothing new. He said that formerly, companies making political ads had to do so through surrogates. The difference is that now they have the option to do so openly.
He explained that the question will become how corporations and unions will be able to put their money into politics while making it look like they were simply advocating good causes.
Ellman-Golan also said that she saw the ruling as further disenfranchisement of the poorer people and companies in this nation. She said Democrats typically fight for more regulation on companies to prevent individuals from being harmed for financial gain.
Devine, however, pointed out that “we invest in corporations for a reason, because we think they will make better decisions than [we] personally can make.” He said the loosened restrictions on corporations will cause less fraudulence and more debate.
He said that money has always been necessary to win elections, but in the past candidates without the backing of one of the major political parties were financially left behind. Citing Texas congressman Ron Paul’s 2008 presidential campaign, he explained that individuals who are less popular with their parties would now have a chance by using money from corporations.Comments powered by Disqus
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