In a recent New York Times article former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens spoke about the Court’s recent rulings on campaign finance reform, and the negative results he sees this having on American democracy. Of course one of the rulings that Stevens is referring to is McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission. This ruling made it legal for anyone to donate money to any number of federal candidates around the country. This becomes very scary when you think of a rich person in Alabama, like McCutcheon, being able to fund a candidate in Washington even though he does not live there. The implications for big money controlling American politics are truly terrifying. As Stevens puts it: “The voter is less important than the man who provides money to the candidate. It’s really wrong”.
In his new book, “Six Amendments: How and Why We Should Change the Constitution”, Steven outlines a proposal for a constitutional amendment that would address the amount of money being funneled into American politics. According to the NYTs article: “The new amendment would override the First Amendment and allow Congress and the states to impose ‘reasonable limits on the amount of money that candidates for public office, or their supporters, may spend in election campaigns.’”
In an interview with PBS News Hour promoting his new book, Stevens highlights that how we currently fund politics is very different than what our forefathers had imagined. Stevens says that the first sentence in the McCutcheon ruling is incredibly misleading. The sentence reads: “There is no right more basic in our democracy than the right to participate in electing our political leaders.” However, as Stevens emphasizes this ruling was not about the right of the individual to participate in democracy, but the right for the individual’s money to. One person’s money should never be more powerful than another person’s vote. In my mind amending the Constitution could be a radical first step in addressing campaign finance reform in the US.