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Monday, November 29, 2004

Supreme Court Keeps Fat Cats In Control
The Supreme Court today refused to hear the case of Homans v. City of Albuquerque. This was the case where the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals had rejected Albuquerque's longstanding limit on campaign spending. TheRestofUs.org had filed a friend of the court brief urging them to take this up. I guess they didn't agree.

The justices sided with a narrow minority, namely the handful of fat cats that throw big money into political campaigns, and sided against the rest of us. They used a twisted view of the federal constitution to overturn a local law that was supported by 90% of the citizens. It’s just plain wrong to equate the buying of elections with free speech.

Albuquerque had mandatory spending limits in place for its local elections from 1974 until courts suspended them in 2001. The limits had served the city well, leading to fair and competitive elections. (see my op-ed in the Albuquerque Tribune for more details.) On September 22 of this year, Albuquerque appealed to the US Supreme Court to review the lower court’s suspension of the spending limits. The Supreme Court’s refusal today means that Albuquerque’s spending limits are now permanently overruled unless the Court were to take up a different case.

Reformers still hold out hope that the Supreme Court may take up another case from Vermont, where the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld mandatory spending limits. I hope that President Bush makes good on his promise not to appoint more activist judges to the Supreme Court who project their own policy views onto the US Constitution to throw out laws that the people pass to protect our democracy. If the Court continues to keep our elections on the auction block, reformers will need to pass a constitutional amendment to authorize mandatory spending limits.

Retiring US Senator Fritz Hollings from South Carolina and Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter have long championed a constitutional amendment that would overturn the Supreme Court’s previous Buckley v. Valeo decision and authorize Congress and the states to set mandatory campaign spending limits.

In the most recent congressional elections where there are no spending limits, the candidate who spent the most won 96 percent of House races and 91% of Senate races.

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