On the First Anniversary of McCutcheon v. FEC, Activists Call for Action on Money in Politics
Today marks the first anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision in McCutcheon v. FEC that removed restrictions on how much individuals can spend in political races each cycle. This decision was seen as the sequel to Citizens United. Prior to the court’s decision in McCutcheon, individual donors could contribute a maximum of $123,200 in any two-year election cycle. Now, the wealthiest few individuals are allowed to give as much as an aggregate $5.9 million to candidates and political parties each election cycle— drowning out the influence of regular citizens even more than they are already were with the Citizens United ruling.
In conjunction with the anniversary of the McCutcheon decision, money-in-politics activists from groups around the country, including CAP’s Vice President of Legal Progress Michele Jawando, held a press conference today in front of the White House calling on the President to issue an executive order requiring contractors that do business with the government to disclose their political spending. Organizers also delivered a petition to the White House with over 500,000 signatures in support of the executive order. As a part of the movement, rallies and events are scheduled to be held in 55 cities and towns across 30 states. Follow along at #BetterPolitics and #GetMoneyOut.
An executive order requiring federal contractors to disclose political spending is an important first step in blunting the influence of big money in our political system. Here’s what you need to know about what this executive order would look like:
Why do we need an executive order? Voters deserve to know who is trying to influence our political leaders. Dark money is a problem no matter where it comes from, but it is especially concerning coming from government contractors who the government relies on for many critical services like defense supplies, infrastructure repairs, and environmental protections.
How would an executive order help? If the President were to issue an executive order, citizens would be able to see which elected officials benefit the most from government contractors, making it easier to see whether those same officials sought to influence the contracting process on behalf of their supporters.
What else could be done? The best long-term solution to the problems that come along with dark money would be Congress passing legislation requiring campaign finance disclosure for all political spenders. But in Congress’s current state of gridlock, that fix doesn’t seem imminent.
In the meantime, the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) also has an important role to play in repairing some of the damage done by Citizens United. A recent petition for the SEC to require corporations to disclose their political spending has seen broad, bipartisan support and a record-breaking over one million comments in support— but so far, the SEC has done nothing. A new campaign has launched calling for SEC chair Mary Jo White to take action on this issue, including releasing a video and blanketing DC’s Union Station with comic-book style ads depicting Mary Jo White as the superhero who can save us from dark money— if she answers the call and takes action on this crucial issue. Add your voice at #WhereIsMJW.
BOTTOM LINE: Due to the Supreme Court’s decisions in McCutcheon and Citizens United, a few wealthy individuals and corporations have an outsized influence in our political process. And there are a few common sense steps that can be taken now to help ensure that every person’s voice is heard—not just the wealthy few.
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