Thursday, January 21, 2010 - Big Political Action

posted Jan 21, 2010, 6:59 PM by Jeremy Poehnert   [ updated Jan 21, 2010, 7:13 PM ]
As a follow up on my last post, in a stunning upset the Republican candidate won the special election for the Senate that happened on Tuesday.

This is big news.  It gives the Republicans enough Senators to filibuster in the Senate, and essentially kill any issue they oppose.  It could stop the entire Democratic agenda, especially health care reform.  It could also herald a growing tide of Republican power around the country, leading to the possible winning of both houses of Congress in the midterm elections next year.

So there are a lot of unknowns, and lots of big stakes.  Irregardless of political beliefs, my biggest fear is massive gridlock.  There's a chance that the legislative process will just stall out.

In other big news, the Supreme Court made a watershed decision about campaign finance, throwing out a significant chunk of the last 100 years of campaign finance law.  The decision just came out, but if the early analysis is accurate, the court's decision will allow corporations and unions to spend unlimited amounts of money to support candidates for office.

The court decided, in a 5-4 decision, that if money = speech in elections (which has been the recent interpretation) then the government can't limit the freedom of speech of corporations and unions by limiting how much money they can put into supporting a candidate.

I'm not an expert in campaign finance, freedom of speech or the law, but this decision bothers me.  I'm not comfortable saying that money is the same as speech, or that limiting donations is a limitation on speech, or that a corporation has the same speech rights as an individual.  It strikes me that the flood of big money will ended up drowning the actual speech by real people that the first amendment is actually supposed to protect.

Both issues, the election in MA and the change in campaign finance rules, mean that the midterm election next year is going to be intense!  A major fight for power between Republicans and Democrats, and amazing amounts of money in play.  And although it sounds far away, I won't be surprised if we things getting started sooner rather than later.