Historical Notes

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Calling the history of reforming campaign finance laws "Sisyphean," Jack Beatty writes in The Atlantic Online on the recent Supreme Court ruling weakening certain provisions of BCRA and how the fight to counter the influence of money on U.S. elections is over 100 years old and nowhere near over.


Teddy Roosevelt got the ball rolling in 1905:

Public recoil against the corruption of politics by business led McKinley’s successor, Theodore Roosevelt, to act. In his 1905 message to Congress, Roosevelt condemned the perception that the dollar speaks louder than the vote. "No enemy of free government [is] more dangerous,” he stated, “and none so insidious." Roosevelt called for a ban on "all contributions by corporations to any political committee or for any political purpose."

I suppose on the one hand it's depressing to consider how long we've been having this debate and yet how much campaing spending (and high-dollar fundraising) has increased. On the other hand, it's also important to realize that we need to gear up for the long-term fight. One Supreme Court decision isn't the ball game, rather we need to build the infrastructure in states and in Congress to keep pushing forward for the strongest proposal we have, Clean Elections.

Plus, what's with everyone assuming that the Sisyphus story is all negative? Yes, as the story goes he had to push a huge rock up a hill all day, then watch it roll down and start over pushing again the next day but I'll bet he had pretty superior cardiovascular fitness.