PITTSFIELD -- Their signs read "Get Big Money Out of Politics," "Democracy Is Not For Sale" and "This Is What Plutocracy Looks Like." About a dozen of them stood in Park Square on Wednesday evening, one of 130 "rapid response events" coordinated nationwide to protest that morning's Supreme Court decision in McCutcheon v. FEC.
The decision freed individuals to donate unlimited amounts to federal candidates, political parties and PACs. Chief Justice John Roberts' opinion struck down individual two-year contribution limits of $46,600 to candidates and $74,600 to a PAC or party because they violate the First Amendment, the court ruled.
Local protesters in the park saw the opinion as an expansion of 2010's Citizens United decision, which granted corporations such a carte blanche -- to disastrous effect, they said.
"Not a single person you talk to thinks big money in politics is a good idea," said Andrew Bloom, of West Stockbridge. "What it means is a very small sliver of extraordinarily wealthy people will get to exert still more influence on our political system."
Another demonstration against the decision was held on Town Hall property in Great Barr-
ington. Public Citizen, a consumer rights advocacy group based in Washington, D.C., helped coordinate the events and others nationwide.
Just 31,385 individuals contributed 28.1 percent of total donations in the 2012 presidential election, according the Sunlight Foundation, who deemed this group "the one percent of the one percent" and said they'd fill Washington D.C.'s FedEx Field to only 37 percent capacity.
Americans for Campaign Reform place contributions from the richest one percent of Americans at 82 percent of total itemized contributions in 2008.
Money buys influence, said the city's protesters, and winning candidates end up in the debt of big money donors who flood their campaign coffers with capital. This leads to corruption, obfuscation of issues outside the wishes of the super rich and corporations and political agendas that don't reflect most Americans' beliefs, they said.
But the protesters also saw reason for hope. Popular anger at Wednesday's decision could affect a broad movement to reverse the cycle, they said.
"It's almost like the Supreme Court is inviting the American people and the government to craft a constitutional amendment banning this," said Maggie Sadoway, of Lenox.
Edward O'Toole invited people to come out and participate in similar demonstrations in Park Square every Thursday night.
"That's what we stand out here for. We want to get to those people," O'Toole said, motioning to the cars passing by.
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