The Norman Transcript

Opinion

October 12, 2013

Case could spread distrust

NORMAN — Creating more distrust and cynicism of American politics wouldn’t be difficult today. We would need only to remove all restrictions on how much money wealthy donors can provide elected officials.

The U.S. Supreme Court may be deciding just that as it considers a challenge to campaign finance laws that limit how much individuals may donate, in total, to candidates for federal office.

Critics of removing the cap say it will legalize bribery, while proponents contend the government shouldn’t limit the free speech of donors who want to talk with their money.

Supreme Court observers say the justices may be leaning in the direction of removing the restrictions given their ruling in January 2010 to erase limits on how much corporations and unions can spend on independent groups influencing elections. Two years later, those parties and groups poured $5.2 billion into campaigns.

The case argued before the court this week started with an Alabama businessman, Shaun McCutcheon, with a zeal for supporting conservative candidates. He wanted to donate the maximum amount to a number of congressional candidates. But he was limited to 16 candidates because he hit the cap on donations that any individual may make in a two-year election cycle — $48,600 to candidates and $74,600 to parties.

McCutcheon has allies in the Republican National Committee and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. A National Public Radio report says they're asking the court to approve a campaign finance standard that would likely remove all limits - individual and aggregate.

Of course, after the court's decision in the Citizens United case, McCutcheon can contribute as much money as he wants to groups that in turn promote particular candidates. So, one might argue, he's not really restricted, though he says he can be more effective by giving money directly to candidates.

That's just the kind of appearance of corruption — let alone actual corruption — that U.S. campaign finance laws were designed to prevent. The laws date to 1974, when they were crafted in response to the Watergate scandal. They were challenged on similar grounds two years later and at other points, but by and large they were upheld until three years ago.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Opinion
  • Repairs still needed

    Lawmakers once again kicked the can down the road on making needed repairs to the state Capitol. By a 62-34 vote, they turned down a Senate-approved plan to authorize up to $160 million in bonds to repair the nearly century-old building....

    April 24, 2014

  • Health care needs have reached critical stage

    Once again, the Republican-led Oklahoma legislators are leaving Oklahoma’s neediest in the dust with their proposed 2014-2015 budget. Studies by the Oklahoma Health Care Authority and the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance ...

    April 24, 2014

  • Can’t have it both ways

    Local sheriff Joe Lester wasn’t among the state sheriffs and lawmakers protesting the removal of state prisoners from county jails this week. The sheriffs, some of whom have protested by having too many state prisoners in their ...

    April 24, 2014

  • Help for rural America

    A drive through rural parts of the Southwest can be depressing. For sale and for rent signs are prevalent. Businesses along main streets have closed. Unless they are close to a major interstate highway, many communities are in decline....

    April 23, 2014

  • Embarrassment to Oklahoma, again

    The standardized testing that was halted in local schools Monday is another embarrassment to the state. The same thing happened a year ago and Oklahoma gave them another chance....

    April 23, 2014

  • Time to move on; exit of Sebelius is right choice

    From the moment it became obvious that healthcare.gov wasn’t working, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius became damaged goods for the White House....

    April 23, 2014

  • Happy birthday to us

    We don’t expect any cake and that many candles might be dangerous but today is the unofficial 125th birthday of Norman....

    April 22, 2014

  • Hero of Haarlem … for common good

    “Trudging stoutly along by the canal,” as the story goes, the 8-year-old son of a Dutch sluicer was returning home from delivering cakes to a blind man. Humming as he passed the dikes, he noticed that recent rains had made his father’s job ...

    April 22, 2014

  • Hate without end

    The news that a former grand dragon of the Ku Klux Klan is suspected of shooting and killing three people near Jewish community centers in Kansas seems at first glance like a disparaged past flaring briefly into the present. Americans like ...

    April 21, 2014

  • Reform is necessary

    Editor, The Transcript: Last year, the legislature passed laws reforming the Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs, which was a good start, but more is needed. Recent media reports have revealed that the ODVA employs M.D. and D.O. ...

    April 20, 2014