Educators are no stranger to the influence of big corporate money influencing policy. For the past decade the same corporate and Wall Street interests have poured millions of dollars in “education reform” efforts and millions more to candidates who support the privatization of schools.
Unfortunately, the Supreme Court released its decision on McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission setting a dangerous precedent allowing even more access for big corporate money to influence our democracy. The Court lifted the aggregate limits on the amounts that wealthy individuals can give to candidates, political parties, and PACs in federal elections.
The current aggregate limits allow individual contributors to give up to $48,600 to federal candidates, and to give up to $74,600 to non-candidate PACs and party committees, for a total of $123,200 each two-year election cycle.
The limit is approximately equal to what someone would earn if they worked at the minimum wage for every single hour and day of an election cycle. More specifically, a worker earning the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour would need to work more than 23 hours per day, every day, for the entire two-year election cycle to earn an amount equal to the aggregate contribution limit.
Yet, the Court still felt these campaign contribution limits were too restrictive.
Here is the statement from NEA President Dennis Van Roekel:
“America’s working families lost today when the Supreme Court’s ruling on McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission effectively removed meaningful limits on the total amount an individual can directly contribute to candidates, political parties and political committees. The ruling creates yet another loophole that will allow a single individual to contribute millions of dollars to political parties, candidates and multi-candidate PACs.
“At a time when the lop-sided playing field unfairly benefits the haves over the have-nots, the McCutcheon decision opens the floodgates even further for corporations and the monied elite to dominate our democracy. The majority opinion goes on to strike down aggregate limits that only prevent the very richest in our society from contributing to every campaign they would like and, thereby, dominating the political discourse.
“Our country was founded on the premise that democracy is not for sale. No kindergarten teacher, school nurse, librarian, food service worker or school bus driver can compete with the deep pockets of billionaires. Taken together with Citizens United, today’s decision guts America’s campaign finance laws, leaving a remnant incapable of dealing with the grave problems of democratic legitimacy that those laws were intended to resolve.”