NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Opinion

April 5, 2014

Shribman: Let loose the purse strings

With its members holding lifetime tenure and sheltered from elections and polls, the Supreme Court has the capacity to structure the politics of the other two branches. It did so in 2000, when it settled the electoral standoff between Al Gore Jr. and George W. Bush. It did so in 2010, when it permitted corporations and nonprofit organizations to make unlimited “independent expenditures.” And it did so again this week.

This latest decision, which threw out a $123,200 limit on contributions to federal candidates and political parties over a two-year election cycle, threw American politics into upheaval and altered the landscape for this fall’s elections.

The high court’s decision buttressed two important trends. It chipped away at campaign-finance laws that since the mid-1970s had sought to restrict the influence of big money on American political campaigns. And it affirmed the notion that political contributions are a form of speech protected by the First Amendment.

Both of these developments have shaped American politics in recent years, and though they were embraced with new vigor by special-interest groups and deplored with new outrage by activists seeking to limit the effect of money on politics, they in effect return American politics to pre-Watergate, or even pre-20th century, contours.

More specifically, the ruling may help the established political parties, traditionally the source of the money that the California politician Jesse M. Unruh described as the mother’s milk of politics. In recent years, the two major parties had watched helplessly as streams of political money flowed to outside groups. But the partial reversal of this trend almost certainly will return American politics to a shape more familiar to readers of textbooks than to readers of contemporary newspapers and websites.

That world is a politics of a nearly unfettered flow of money into the major parties, accompanied by a nearly unfettered influence on politics of the lobbyists who are both instruments of big money and distributors of it.

Text Only | Photo Reprints

NDN Video
Crews rescue elderly woman trapped inside flooded minivan Taylor Swift Reveals New Album 1989 is Full-On Pop Serious Flash Flooding in Arizona Man Poses for New Mugshot Photo Wearing Shirt with Old Mugshot Photo On It Disquieting times for Malaysia's 'fish listeners' Caught On Camera: Johnny Manziel Obscene Gesture Rita Ora Embraces the Ice Bucket Challenge Bird surprises soccer player Ashley Young during game Chapter Two: Never too late to become an artist Ice Bucket Challenge Goes Viral, Raises Over $15M For ALS Damaging Winds Stop the Show! In the Cockpit of the Air Force's Elite Squadron Pathologist: Autopsy Shows Teen Repeatedly Shot Christina Aguilera Has a Baby Girl Marvel Fans: Watch Dancing Baby Groot Over and Over! Raw: Protesters, Police Clash in Ferguson Gov. Rick Perry responds to indictment Breaking: Officials release name of police officer in Ferguson shooting Man Shot As Protesters Defy Curfew in Ferguson Justin Bieber & Selena Gomez Back Together for Two ‘Secret’ Dates
Special Features
NRA Waterfront Plans