Transcript: Sen. Chuck Schumer’s remarks on McCutcheon v. FEC ruling

Partial transcript of remarks by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-New York) on the Supreme Court ruling in McCutcheon v. FEC on April 2, 2014: 

Okay, good afternoon, everyone, and I’m very pleased to be joined by my colleague and friend, Sen. [Sheldon] Whitehouse.

This morning, as you all know, the Supreme Court announced its decision in McCutcheon v. FEC.

While we’re still poring through the text, a few things are clear: The Roberts court has yet again turn back the clock on our democracy by eliminating the cap to overall donations to federal candidates, political parties, and PACs [political action committees].

This in itself is a small step, but it’s another step on the road to ruination of our political system that the Supreme Court is clearly headed down. They wish to dismantle all limits on giving piece by piece until we are back to the days of the robber barons when anyone or anything could give unlimited money, undisclosed, and make our political system seems so rigged that everyone lose interest in our democracy.

So the implications of this decision are huge even though the individual question before the court was small.

The Koch brothers and other wealthy donors have already wrecked havoc on our political system. This decision and those that will follow it seems by the narrowest of margin 5 to 4 will make the Koch brothers’ lives easier and Americans’ lives harder.

It could lead to interpretation of the law that will result in the end of any fairness in the political system as we know it.

We saw what happened in the wake of Citizens United. We saw the flood of special interest money. We saw lawyers poring over the decision and its implications to figure out ways around the law. And we’re going to see much more of that again.

Much of the money that’s donated is anonymous. We don’t know who’s donating it. Most of the commercials run have nothing to do with the actual interests of who’s donating the money.

And today’s ruling decided once again by the mere slimmest of majorities is yet another nail in the coffin of our free and fair elections system.

Now, for instance, by eliminating aggregate contribution limits, nothing can stop a single millionaire from lining the pockets of an entire state’s congressional delegation or giving one check to every member of a party in Congress.

You might remember Tom Perkins, who said wealthier people ought to get more votes in American elections. Well, I’d ask Chief Justice Roberts, “Did Tom Perkins argue this case?” Because that’s where the outcome is headed.

So, it’s a sad day. Again, the implications of this particular decision are significant but not huge. But the direction that the court is headed in is just dramatic and just dark.

I just want to mention one other thing on. Our colleague, Tom Udall, could not be with us. He has introduced a constitutional amendment that would allow the Congress to impose limits that the Supreme Court seems to be part of free speech, and a decision like this make that amendment more and more likely.

And one other point. The proponents of this decision talk about free speech. That’s an absurdity. No amendment is absolute. You can’t falsely scream “Fire” in a crowded theater. You can’t distribute child pornography. You can’t libel somebody. Those are limitations on free speech.

It seems so logical to every American that a limitation should be on the wealthiest of donors rigging our political system. But somehow the Supreme Court – 5 of them anyway – cling to this idea that putting the same dishonest commercial on television for the 4,111th time is a vital cause of free speech.

I don’t think Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, or any of the founding fathers would have ever think that this was a mandate of free speech.


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