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Kansas party leaders disagree on effects of campaign finance decision

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Wednesday, April 2, 2014, at 7:25 p.m.
  • Updated Thursday, April 3, 2014, at 6:41 a.m.

In Kansas, state leaders of the two major political parties diverged on the impact of the Supreme Court ruling on campaign finance.

They noted that it won’t have a direct impact on state elections because it concerns only federal campaign dollars.

Clay Barker, executive director of the Kansas Republican Party, said the ruling is a victory for free speech, but he also said it will have complicated effects, and the results may not be known for a year or so until it is determined which PACs and which campaigns received more money than in the past.

“It’ll require a lot of lawyers and fundraising tacticians to think through how it will affect their fundraising and how to restructure it,” Barker said.

Barker also wondered how many large donors will take advantage of the decision. He doesn’t think it will be a tidal wave, he said. Many already can give to 501(c)(4), or social welfare, organizations, which aren’t capped, Barker said.

Jason Perkey, executive director of the Kansas Democratic Party, said the effect of the ruling already is clear.

“This ruling paves the way for more special interests, and dramatically increases their ways to have an impact on public policy,” Perkey said.

The ruling doesn’t allow average voters to feel they have a voice in that process, he said. They believe their voices will be drowned out by wealthy donors of both parties.

“This decision provided a way for the very wealthy to spread their dollars more widely than they could before,” Perkey said.

Bob Beatty, a political science professor at Washburn University, said the ruling is part of a process that has taken place in the courts over the last few years in which wealthy groups and individuals are being allowed to become more and more influential in the political process.

“At what point is democracy threatened when some voices just are enabled to be so much louder than other voices?” Beatty said. “If some voices are essentially allowed to be that much louder, then the question becomes, is it really a democratic state?”

Free speech may be the court’s justification for the ruling, Beatty said, but many other countries limit free speech if it is damaging to their political processes, and even America limits free speech if it is damaging to society.

“It’s too easy to say money is free speech and should be allowed. That’s not the case even with free speech. There are limits on free speech on all sorts of things,” Beatty said.

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