On April 2, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a 5 to 4 ruling in the McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission case, overturning a 40-year limit on aggregate political contributions that a single donor can make to candidates and party political action committees. This decision effectively frees wealthy donors from previous restrictions, now allowing them to contribute to an unlimited number of candidates and party campaign organizations, while still being subject to caps on donations to individual candidates.
The suit was launched by Alabama businessman Shaun McCutcheon and the Republican National Committee, who challenged the current restrictions on political contributions in a single election. With this Supreme Court ruling favorable to the GOP; a single-donor can now write a $5.9 million check to a fundraising committee controlled by an elected official or party leader. This decision further erodes campaign finance reforms, already gutted in the 2010 Supreme Court ruling in the Citizens United case that opened the floodgates of corporate money in elections.
While Chief Justice John Roberts, who wrote the majority opinion expressed no concern about the corrupting influence of more money in U.S. political campaigns, Justice Stephen Breyer countered that “the anti-corruption interest that drives Congress to regulate campaign contributions is a far broader, more important interest” than the five-person majority recognizes. Between The Lines’ Scott Harris spoke with Jonah Minkoff-Zern, co-director of Public Citizen’s Democracy is for People campaign. Here, he examines the consequences of the McCutcheon decision and the grassroots movement working to restore and strengthen campaign finance laws by passing a constitutional amendment limiting the role of money in U.S. politics.
- Interview with Jonah Minkoff-Zern, conducted by Scott Harris, Counterpoint, April 7, 2014 (22:27)
- Overturn McCutcheon at OverturnMcCutcheon.com
- “Overturn McCutcheon and Citizens United,” Public Citizen action campaign
- Corporations Are Not People at corporationsarenotpeople.com
- Brennan Center Analysis of McCutcheon v. FEC at brennancenter.org
After years of opposition to the proposed Pebble Mine from Alaskan native organizations and their allies, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced on April 7 that it is invoking its Clean Water Act authority in order to determine whether the agency can permanently prohibit or restrict mine waste disposal into Alaska’s Bristol Bay watershed. The Pebble Mine, if it were to be built, would be North America’s largest open pit gold and copper mine. Bristol Bay is the easternmost area of the Bering Sea, extending for 250 miles along the Alaskan Peninsula.
Efforts to dig the mine have been ongoing for years, but the developers have been thwarted by grassroots opposition groups armed with scientific studies presenting evidence that damage to the local ecosystem would result, especially to the world-famous sockeye salmon fishery there. Pebble Mine opponents include commercial fishermen, conservation groups, churches, investors and recreational fishermen.
Between The Lines’ Melinda Tuhus spoke with Kimberly Williams, director of Nunamta Aulukestai, an association of ten Bristol Bay native tribes and Alaska native village corporations. Here, she talks about her group’s opposition to the Pebble Mine proposal and the role of the EPA in the process.
Find additional information on the campaign to stop the Pebble Mine at the Nunamta Aulukestai website at www.nunamta.org.
- Stop Pebble Mine at stoppebblemine.org
- Save Bristol Bay at savebristolbay.org/about-the-bay/about-pebble-mine
- Stop the Pebble Mine! at savebiogems.org/stop-pebble-mine
- “More wise flight from the Pebble Mine project in Alaska’s Bristol Bay,”Seattle Times, April 8, 2014
- “Begich comes out in opposition of Pebble Mine development,” The Bristol Bay Times, Jan. 24, 2014
- “Is Alaska’s Pebble Mine the Next Keystone XL?” The Atlantic,
This week’s summary of under-reported news
Compiled by Bob Nixon
- In the midst of the crisis over Ukraine and Crimea, the European Union has committed to send troops to the Central Africa Republic to reinforce French soldiers there. The goal is stop the ethnic and religious violence that has forced over 300,000 people to flee the country. (“EU launches military operation in Central African Republic,” CNN, April 1, 2014;“Flight from Rage,” Los Angeles Times, 3/30/14; “Central African Republic: Are we ignoring Rwanda all over again,” Guardian, April 3, 2014
- Amid growing economic discontent in France, Marine Le Pen of the far right National Front party emerged stronger after local elections. For the first time the anti-immigrant party elected 11 mayors mostly in hard-hit industrial areas facing rising unemployment. (“Le Pen’s National Front breaks ground in French election,” Associated Press, March 31, 2014;“National Front wins support and elections,” New York Times, March 1, 2014; “Polishing the image of France’s National Front,” BBC, March 24, 2014)
- As the fracking boom has set off a surge in shale oil and gas drilling, it has led to a parallel boom in sand mining in rural towns in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Illinois. The new demand pits owners of industrial mining pits and the energy industry against farmers and advocates of public health who maintain that prolonged exposure to airborne sand particles can lead to lung cancer and other respiratory diseases. (“A Midwest storm over sand,” Christian Science Monitor, March 17, 2014)