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Rule by the rich

New York Teacher

Not too long ago, history teachers could tell students that plutocracy, in which a society is ruled by a small number of the wealthiest citizens, existed in the past or elsewhere in the world, not in the United States today.

Teachers now will have to change that lesson.

A U.S. Supreme Court decision on April 2 moved our country further along the path of rule by the super-rich. The 5-4 decision in McCutcheon v. the Federal Election Commission struck down limits on the amount that any one person can contribute to federal campaigns in a two-year election cycle.

The ruling threatens to give a tiny number of ultra-wealthy donors a bigger megaphone while the voices of ordinary Americans get drowned out.

The decision eliminates aggregate limits on contributions by individuals, which stand at $48,600 to candidates and $74,600 to political parties. In the last federal election cycle, only about 600 individuals spent up to the contribution limit for candidates and about 1,700 hit the donation cap for political parties.

More of these big donors gave to Republicans than to Democrats. Now these same contributors will be able to each pump millions of dollars into federal races. The ruling will also affect the 13 states that have aggregate limits on campaign contributions by individual donors.

The nation’s campaign finance system is broken and must be fixed. But we can’t wait until that happens. We have to make sure our voices are heard.

COPE, the Committee on Political Education, is the UFT’s political arm. It funds all the union’s political work, from the cost of trips to Albany to contributions to campaigns. COPE is funded entirely by voluntary donations. No funds from union dues are used for political action.

We all know how critical it is that we elect politicians who support the issues and policies that matter most to our members.

Consider contributing to COPE if you haven’t already signed up. Our voice depends on it.