Power And Politics – 1956 – Past Daily Reference Room
American Forum – Power and Politics – Senator Richard Neuberger (D-Oregon) – Senator Barry Goldwater (R-Arizona) April 29, 1956 – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –
Politics; it never changes. All about power, influence and favors. Especially during election season when war chests are overflowing and ads seem to run non-stop. Although in 2022, the climate and the mechanics have changed dramatically since 1956, the core of the issue is still there and probably always will be: what does power buy and what are the mechanics to make that happen.
In 1956 there were campaign regulations that stipulated no candidate could receive more than $5,000 from any individual contribution. Since that time we’ve the introduction of Citizens United and the cap has been taken off and contributions have gone off the charts.
In 2010 a conservative nonprofit group called Citizens United challenged campaign finance rules after the FEC stopped it from promoting and airing a film criticizing presidential candidate Hillary Clinton too close to the presidential primaries.
A 5–4 majority of the Supreme Court sided with Citizens United, ruling that corporations and other outside groups can spend unlimited money on elections.
In the court’s opinion, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote that limiting “independent political spending” from corporations and other groups violates the First Amendment right to free speech. The justices who voted with the majority assumed that independent spending cannot be corrupt and that the spending would be transparent, but both assumptions have proven to be incorrect.
With its decision, the Supreme Court overturned election spending restrictions that date back more than 100 years. Previously, the court had upheld certain spending restrictions, arguing that the government had a role in preventing corruption. But in Citizens United, a bare majority of the justices held that “independent political spending” did not present a substantive threat of corruption, provided it was not coordinated with a candidate’s campaign.
As a result, corporations can now spend unlimited funds on campaign advertising if they are not formally “coordinating” with a candidate or political party.
The fear in 1956 was that, increasing campaign contribution limits would lead to an unprecedented number of “campaign favors” granted” and that whole question of our Political campaign system would be at risk.
This debate (or sorts) features two (at the time) Freshman Senators; Richard Neuberger (D-Oregon) and Senator Barry Goldwater (R-Arizona).
To get an idea of just how much things have changed to the political landscape, here is that episode of American Forum from April 29, 1956.
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