In a Boston Globe op-ed today, Sec. Hillary Clinton correctly noted the importance of the next president’s power to appoint Supreme Court justices. On no issue is this more true than on money in politics. Over the past four decades, the Supreme Court has gutted common sense protections against big money dominance of our democracy. They’ve done this through a series of flawed rulings that have turned the First Amendment into a tool for use by the wealthy to drown out the rest of our voices.
More money, more speech according to this Court. In fact, this month marks the 40th anniversary of the case that first announced that dubious principle, Buckley v. Valeo.
This must stop. Demos has long argued that we need to transform the Court’s entire approach to money in politics. Today, Sec. Clinton wrote that as president she would “appoint justices who will…protect citizens’ right to vote, rather than billionaires’ right to buy elections.” We encourage all presidential candidates to pledge to appoint justices who will rescue our Constitution and return to the People the power to limit big money.
And, it’s critical that the next president understands that our money in politics problem goes beyond Citizens United, the most infamous case on the topic. We need to revisit Buckley, which has left a legacy of political, economic, and racial inequality.
Fighting big money isn’t a partisan issue with the public, and it shouldn’t be with our elected leaders. Senator Sanders and Governor O’Malley have both introduced plans to address the problem of big money, and Republican candidates have also talked about the issue. All of the presidential candidates should make clear to the public what they intend to do to fight big money in their first 100 days, even under the Court’s current constraints. This means more than proposals on paper—it means raising the issue in debates and making specific commitments.
And, the next president must appoint justices who won’t stand in the way as We the People work to create a democracy where the size of our wallets don’t determine the strength of our voices.