What a Day: Supreme Court Lifts Limits on Campaign Donations, Republicans Unveil Budget

What a day. After receiving the grim news on the advance of climate change from the IPCC, the Supreme Court opens US elections to an even bigger flood of special interest money and Paul Ryan unveils the Republican’s budget wish list. The only positive is that efficiency and renewable energy tax credits are up again for renewal.

Supreme Court Rules on McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission

Even after all the push back the Supreme Court has received on its Citizens United ruling, they did it again. 

While Citizens United opened the floodgates for wealthy individuals and corporations to influence campaigns through unlimited donations to supposed non-profits (without having to disclose where it’s coming from), this ruling does the same for individual donors who can now contribute directly to candidate campaigns and political parties.

Supreme Court

Gutting a long-standing anti-bribery law that caps individuals’ campaign donations at $123,000 per election cycle, the right-wing majority of the Supreme Court ruled that caps aren’t needed to prevent corruption and are unconstitutional.

Congress set the $123,000 limit in the early 1970s, which was  upheld by the Supreme Court’s 1976 decision in Buckley v. Valeo.

Not surprisingly, McCutcheon is an Alabama coal tycoon. He wants to give as much money as he wants to as many politicians as he pleases. And now he can.

Between Citizens United, gutting the Voting Rights Act and now McCutcheon, the Supreme Court has demolished democratic elections.

"This process – a handful of the wealthiest people in our country controlling the political process – is called "oligarchy," says Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT). "If we are serious about elections being fought over ideas, we must move toward public funding of elections."

MoveOn.org alone will hold 150 protests today across the US to protest the decision.

Paul Ryan Releases Republican Budget

Admitting that it’s not much different from previous versions, Paul Ryan (R-WI) released his party’s FY2015 budget proposal. While the Democrat’s Progressives budget doesn’t get air time, the media loves to cover Ryan’s budget for some reason.

The big goal is to create a tiny, ineffective government by cutting it to the bone by taking another $5.1 trillion from vital federal programs just over the next 10 years. Economists across the board say that would spin the US back into recession.

While the budget doesn’t have a chance of passing the Democrat-controlled Senate, it illuminates GOP priorities and warns what will happen if they take over the majority in this year’s elections.

The biggest cuts, of course, come from repealing the Affordable Heathcare Act, and any energy spending not for defense purposes would fall by nearly half.

Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) calls the Ryan budget, "Koch-topia." "We might as well call it the Koch budget." All funding related to climate change mitigation and adaptation is gone. Forget any EPA regulations on power plants – two pages are devoted to the "war on coal." Forget funds for renewable energy or even energy science research. "All energy sources should be developed without undue government interference," it says (except fossil fuel subsidies, of course).

It expands gas and oil exploration off both coasts, in Alaska, Gulf of Mexico and the Intermountain West.

"It seems like a cruel April Fool’s Day joke to push expanded drilling on the heels of destructive oil spills in the Gulf and in our Great Lakes, but that’s exactly what we should expect when Ryan and House Republicans continue to put the demands of their big polluter allies before the interests of the American people," says  Michael Brune, executive director of Sierra Club.

While Obama’s budget would more than double spending under the Land and Water Conservation Fund, this budget not only doesn’t fund the program, it makes it much harder to preserve land for critical habitats.

Forget any program the improves education or helps the middle class or people in poverty. It cuts/privatizes Medicare and sends Medicaid to the states through block grants. As expected, the only agency that gets a raise is the Department of Defense – about $500 million more than the current budget path over a decade.

GOP Ties Unemployment Benefits to Fossil Fuels

The fourth try to extend long-term unemployment benefits will likely fail because of amendments Republicans are attaching to it.

Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), John Hoeven (R-ND) and John Barrasso (R-WY) are attaching an amendment to approve the Keystone pipeline and expedite LNG export applications. Senator  McConnell’s (R-KY) amendment blocks the EPA from regulating greenhouse gases from power plants and fast-tracks approval of new coal mines.  

Renewable Energy Tax Credits

In the middle of all this, there’s a strong move to reinstate the slew of efficiency and renewable energy tax credits that expired at the end of 2013. 

Senator Wyden (D-OR) introduced a bill in the Senate Finance Committee to renew credits for plug-in and fuel cell vehicles, cellulosic biofuel production, renewable diesel, construction of energy-efficient homes, alternative fuel production and fuel  cell motor vehicles. All credits would be extended for two years except the fuel cell credit, which would get one more year.

For some reason, he omitted the all-important renewable energy production tax credit, but Senator Grassley (R-IO) will add it as an amendment.

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