Congressman John Sarbanes

Representing the 3rd District of Maryland

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Diluting the Power of Big Money

Feb 1, 2016
In The News

Those of us who cherish the First Amendment often argue that the best antidote to offensive speech is not a ban or regulation, but simply more speech. A similar logic supports a bill in Congress that would rebalance the grotesque influence of big money in political campaigns by giving a louder voice to small donors. “We’re not restricting anyone’s speech,” said US Representative John Sarbanes of Maryland, sponsor of the bill. ‘‘We’re adding speech.”

In a campaign year when a few dozen deep-pocketed plutocrats dominate the public discourse, it’s heartening to know that someone is trying to design a system where ordinary voters can be heard — and without running afoul of the Supreme Court’s decree that money is a form of speech and therefore can’t be restricted. On the sixth anniversary of the Court’s Citizens United decision, the gusher of campaign cash is unabating. And yet, less than half of one percent of the country’s population contributes even $200 to political campaigns. Short of a constitutional amendment, fixing that will take creativity.