Has the Supreme Court Legalized Corruption?

David Cubine

“Does anyone think that the Koch brothers’ first amendment rights are being violated? Or any other very wealthy person? The only people who seem to think that are people who have a direct self-interest in seeing that small number of people gain more power.”

– Chuck Schumer, New York senator

At the beginning of last month, the United States supreme court abolished limitations on the number of candidates individuals can contribute to. Supposedly this “upholds the first amendment,” with the contributions counting as a form of speech. In the wake of the ruling, PBS hosted a short debate between Erin Murphy, the attorney who won the case, and Michael Waldman, president of the Brennan Center for Justice.

A central component of the debate was the definition of corruption. Waldman points out that the supreme court basically only sees the most basic form of cartoonish corruption as “real,” a hidden exchange of a suitcase full of money for political favors. He argues, much in the way that the oft-referenced Lessig does, that dependency corruption is heavily influencing our representatives (which you can learn more about in detail here). Murphy is dismissive of the idea but fails to present a meaningful counterargument beyond her claim that any corruption beyond quid pro quo corruption is too difficult to define.

Watch the full debate here:

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