Tuesday, October 29, 2013

If Money Is Speech, Then Why Is Asking For It Becoming Illegal?

Two recent legal cases about money and free speech reveal how selectively our laws shelter the wealthy while condemning the poor.

On October 8, the Supreme Court heard arguments in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission (FEC) on campaign financing. If McCutcheon succeeds, the case could lift limits on how much money an individual can spend in an election cycle. If overturned, rich donors would see a new rush of power, gaining influence in more elections.

Currently, campaign finance law limits an individual donor to $48,000 per cycle, making it possible to give maximum contributions to 18 national candidates per election.  The Supreme Court could rule in McCutcheon that limits on campaign donations abridge freedom of speech, enabling wealthy enough donors to give to an unlimited number of candidates.

Every politician in the country would basically need to beg this small group to finance their campaign.

While the wealthy ask to change campaign finance, America’s most vulnerable citizens are getting arrested for even asking for change.

In response to increased poverty from the recession, many cities and states across the nation have passed a litany of laws making it illegal to ask for even a small amount of cash.

In Arizona, an undercover cop arrested a 77-year-old woman asking for bus fare due to a state law that forbade panhandling, though the law was subsequently challenged in federal court and overruled as unconstitutional.

Michigan currently faces a similar challenge to the constitutionality of its panhandling law, yet despite this the momentum to ban panhandling seems to be growing—even in the more liberally-minded states of MarylandVermont, and Massachusetts.

What will become of our democracy when money drowns out our voices in the name of free speech and where the poor are silenced asking for change.