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Campaign finance

Updated: Friday, April 4, 2014
Campaign finance  story image
KALAMAZOO, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) – On Thursday the Supreme Court, in a five to four decision, opened the door to nearly unlimited political campaign contributions.

The old federal law limited a single donor to $123,000 in any given two-year election cycle. Now the high court has ruled that those same donors, in the name of free speech, can pump in as much as $3.5 million.

It’s a case called McCutchen vs the Federal Election Commission.

In this installment of Tom’s Corner, Tom Van Howe says you can score another one for the rich guys.

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This is a frightening turn of event.  What the court basically said yesterday, in furthering its notion that money and free speech go hand in hand, is that if you are very, very rich, you have the right not only to spend, but to be heard.

And if you are not rich, you also have the right to spend, but ought to know from the get go that you will very likely not be heard, that it will be highly unlikely that you’ll have the ear of the voters.

You can yell as loud as you want, but whatever you say will be drowned out by the thunderous avalanche of big money.

By virtually doing away with what remained of our election finance laws, the court has simply tipped the scales in favor of the rich, and without any balance left, any sense of civic equality is gone.

Our democratic legitimacy is in danger.

I don’t know what air the five justices breathe in their high court of chancery, but it’s different stuff than what you and I are accustomed to.

In writing for the majority, Chief Justice John Roberts said he understands that politicians who are blessed with these newfound millions will be grateful to the donors and might be compelled to please them.

But that’s okay he said, that’s not corrosive, that’s not corruption, that’s our system proudly at work.

These rich people, Roberts said “supports candidates who share their beliefs and interests, and candidates who get elected can be expected to be responsive to those concerns.”

Really? A narrow, almost Boy Scoutish, ‘Mr. Smith Goes to Washington’ stamp of approval on what most of the rest of us think is all wrong about what goes on in Washington.

In other words, on the ground level, if you or I write or call a legislator with a suggestion or a complaint, we’re apt to get a form letter in response, but if one of the exalted ones makes that same phone call it’s perfectly acceptable if the legislator responds by chartering a jet to make things right.

This isn’t about free speech, it’s about who comes up with the biggest wad of cash.

Upon hearing what the court did yesterday, Senator John McCain expressed his disappointment.

“I predict again,” McCain said, “there will be major scandals. There’s too much money washing around.”

Justice Stephen Breyer, dissenting from the bench, said the ruling “eviscerates our nation’s campaign finance laws,” and “fails to recognize the difference between influence resting upon public opinion and influence bought by money alone.”

“Where money calls the tune,” Breyer said, “those ideas, representing the voices of the people will not be heard.”

In the weeks, months and years ahead, we’ll be hearing a lot of music that we’ll find disparagingly familiar, unpleasant music made perfectly acceptable by five members of the United States Supreme Court.

The rich guys have won another one. Can anyone say ‘plutocracy?’

In this corner, I’m Tom Van Howe.

Business News

Last Update on April 21, 2015 07:26 GMT

THE DAY AHEAD

WASHINGTON (AP) -- State unemployment figures are due to be released this morning. DuPont is set to release its first quarter financial results before the market opens today. Among the companies releasing their quarterly results after the closing bell are Amgen Inc., Discover Financial Services, Yahoo Inc. and Yum Brands.

Secretary of State John Kerry, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz and Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx are among US and Latin American officials meeting at the State Department for the Washington Conference on the Americas.

BLUE BELL-LISTERIOSIS-RESPONSE

BRENHAM, Texas (AP) -- Texas-based Blue Bell Creameries is recalling all of its products on the market after two samplings of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream tested positive for listeriosis.

Blue Bell's chief executive Paul Kruse said in a statement last night that the company "can't say with certainty" how the bacteria was introduced to the manufacturing line.

The company last month issued its first recall after ice cream contaminated with listeriosis was linked to three deaths at a Kansas hospital. Five others in Kansas and Texas were sickened with the disease.

The foodborne illness was tracked to a production line in Brenham, Texas, and later to a second line in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma.

The recall extends to retail outlets in 23 states and internationally.

BISTATE SAGE GROUSE

RENO, Nev. (AP) -- Interior Secretary Sally Jewell plans to announce today whether she will move forward with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's earlier proposal to order federal protection for a type of sage grouse found only in California and Nevada.

Jewell plans a formal announcement on a listing decision for the bistate sage grouse in Reno this afternoon. It comes months before a more-sweeping decision is due Sept. 30 on whether to declare the greater sage grouse threatened or endangered in 11 western states.

The Fish and Wildlife Service proposed the bistate subspecies be declared threatened along the Sierra's eastern front in 2013. State and federal officials have been working with ranchers and others since then try to head off a listing with voluntary efforts to restore the bird's critical habitat.

OBAMA-MEDICARE

WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Barack Obama has invited Democratic and Republican lawmakers to the White House for a reception thanking them for their work on legislation permanently changing how Medicare pays doctors.

The event will be held today in the Rose Garden. Obama signed the legislation on Friday, marking a rare bipartisan achievement and ending years of last-minute fixes. Obama said then that he wanted to act quickly without ceremony to allow for the new payments. He said he would have lawmakers to the White House this week.

The bill overhauls a 1997 law that aimed to slow Medicare's growth by limiting reimbursements to doctors. Instead, doctors threatened to leave the Medicare program, and that forced Congress repeatedly to block those reductions.

BIRD FLU

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) -- The U.S. Department of Agriculture says the bird flu virus has been found at a farm holding nearly 10 percent of Iowa's egg-laying chickens.

The confirmation of the highly infectious and deadly H5N2 virus means up to 5.3 million hens must be destroyed at the farm in northwest Iowa's Osceola County.

Iowa is home to roughly 59 million hens that lay nearly 1 in every 5 eggs consumed in the country.

It's the first chicken farm in Iowa to be affected by the virus, which was confirmed at a turkey farm in the state last week.

Several Midwestern states have been affected by the outbreaks, costing poultry producers nearly 7.8 million birds since March.

The latest farm experienced a high number of chicken deaths and sent samples to labs.

HORMEL-TURKEY SALES

NEW YORK (AP) -- Hormel says it will sell less turkey this year because of a spreading bird flu outbreak.

Farmers have been forced to kill more than 2.4 million turkeys since March. Most of the birds were in Minnesota, where Hormel is based. The company says it is experiencing significant supply chain problems, but expects outbreaks to decrease as the weather gets better.

Hormel Foods Corp. said yesterday that it can't comment on how turkey prices or the Thanksgiving turkey season will be affected because of its upcoming second-quarter report.

According to a Jennie-O Turkey store website, the highly contagious H5N2 strain of avian flu has hit 17 flocks owned or processed by the company, including flocks being raised by contractors or independent farmers.

It's been found in turkey flocks in six states.

TRUCK TIRE DANGER

DETROIT (AP) -- The nation's largest trucking industry group wants the government to get moving on a rule requiring speed-limiters on big rigs.

The American Trucking Associations proposed the limiters in 2006, but the rule has been stuck in the government bureaucracy.

The group says capping heavy truck speeds at 65 miles per hour would make the roads safer.

The call follows a story by The Associated Press last month revealing that most big truck tires aren't designed to go over 75 mph. Yet 14 states have speed limits of 75 or above. Texas, Wyoming, Utah and South Dakota have limits of 80 or higher.

Transportation Department documents show the rule has been stalled in Secretary Anthony Foxx's office since August.

Messages were left yesterday for a department spokesman.

PULITZERS

NEW YORK (AP) -- The Post and Courier of Charleston, South Carolina, has won the Pulitzer Prize in public service for a series on domestic abuse in the state.

The Seattle Times won the award in breaking news for its digital coverage of a mudslide in Washington State that killed 43 people, and the New York Times won 3 Pulitzers for investigative reporting, international reporting and photography.

The awards, American journalism's highest honor, were announced yesterday.

The Pulitzers recognize various categories of reporting, photography and opinion writing, as well as editorial cartooning.

The prizes also honor drama, music and fiction and nonfiction books.

HALIBURTON-JOB CUTS

HOUSTON (AP) -- Halliburton has cut 9,000 jobs in about six months and is considering additional cost-cutting moves as falling oil prices reduce demand for its drilling help.

That's more than 10 percent of the Houston company's workforce.

Halliburton Co. executives disclosed the job cuts yesterday on a conference call with investors.

The company reported a loss of $643 million in the first quarter. Still, the results excluding write-downs and other one-time costs were better than expected.

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