Senator Elizabeth Warren and Lawrence Lessig Discuss McCutcheon v. FEC

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Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Professor Lawrence Lessig discuss why the Founders would disagree with the Roberts Court's interpretation of corruption.

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In Citizens United, Kennedy’s opinion reiterates the legitimate need for contribution limits to fight the reality and appearance of corruption. He wrote:  

With regard to large direct contributions, Buckley reasoned that they could be given “to secure a political quid pro quo ,” and that “the scope of such pernicious practices can never be reliably ascertained,” The practices Buckley noted would be covered by bribery laws if a quid pro quo arrangement were proved. The Court, in consequence, has noted that restrictions on direct contributions are preventative, because few if any contributions to candidates will involve quid pro quo arrangements. The Buckley Court, nevertheless, sustained limits on direct contributions in order to ensure against the reality or appearance of corruption. (citations omitted).

He also wrote that “the Buckley Court explained that the potential for quid pro quocorruption distinguished direct contributions to candidates from independent expenditures.”

The aggregate limits are necessary to fight the growing perception that our representative government is corrupted by huge sums of money flowing from a few individuals directly to candidates who are supposed to represent all of us. They are a valid means of preventing circumvention of the base limits. And they are an important tool to guide against improper solicitation of huge hard money sums from individuals directly to candidates and parties, a toxic adaptation of the huge “soft money” contributions banned by McCain-Feingold.

As the amicus brief that Demos and membership groups representing 9.5 million submitted demonstrates, Americans believe their government has been corrupted by money in politics. They believe that their elected representatives respond to the interests of their financial supporters rather than to the needs of their constituents or even the larger common good. And they are right to think that, as new research has shown, that government is in fact responsive to the policy preferences of the donor class rather than to average Americans.

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