Supreme Court Deals Blow to Campaign Finance Reform Agenda

Rabbi Saperstein: “The Union for Reform Judaism will continue to support the federal government, states, and localities in exploring new and innovative ways to ensure the viability of public financing programs.”

In response to the Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision in the consolidated cases Arizona Free Enterprise Club’s Freedom Club PAC v. Bennett and McComish v. Bennett, Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, issued the following statement:

In a 5-4 decision issued on Monday, the Supreme Court invalidated the matching fund provisions of Arizona’s public campaign financing system. These provisions provide additional resources to publicly financed candidates when their opponents or independent groups spend in excess of their initial public subsidy. In so doing, matching funds ensure that publicly financed candidates have the resources to mount effective challenges.

The Central Conference of American Rabbis resolved in 2003 to support state-level adoption of full public financing programs such as Arizona’s because such policy “reduces the inherent conflicts of interest that arise when the campaigns of public servants are privately financed.” The Union for Reform Judaism has supported public financing since 1984. Because of the Reform Movement’s longstanding support for public financing as a key means to eliminate the corrupting influence of money from our political system, the Union for Reform Judaism submitted an amicus curiae brief defending Arizona’s program. While Monday’s decision is deeply disappointing, the effort to make democracy more responsive to the will of all the people, not just the wealthy and powerful, goes on.
The Bennett decision is the first campaign finance case on which the Supreme Court rendered judgment since Citizen United v. FEC (2010). In that case, the Supreme Court overturned 63 years of precedent establishing the right of government to prohibit corporations from spending unlimited amounts of money to influence the outcome of elections. The decision rendered by the majority in the Bennett cases is equally troubling and we agree with Justice Kagan’s forceful dissent, read from the bench, sharply challenging Monday’s decision.

Even so, the majority still recognized the right of states and the federal government to use public financing to combat political corruption, even if it prescribed unreasonably restrictive parameters governing the composition of such programs. The Union for Reform Judaism will continue to support the federal government, states, and localities in exploring new and innovative ways to ensure the viability of public financing programs.

Reform Movement Commends Senate Vote Supporting EPA

— Mark J. Pelavin, Associate Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism

Wednesday’s votes on Capitol Hill show us that it is possible to win the battle for clean air, but also how hard that battle will be.

We commend the Senate for voting against measures to prevent the EPA from doing its job of protecting the public from air pollution. At the same time, we are greatly disappointed by the House vote to block the EPA from regulating greenhouse gases.

Over the 41 years since it was first enacted, the Clean Air Act has contributed to improving our air quality, saving and enhancing untold lives that would otherwise have suffered with respiratory and other pollution-related ailments such as asthma, heart and lung disease.

Despite these successes, some in Congress are determined to strip the EPA of its ability to regulate greenhouses gases under the Clean Air Act; putting polluters ahead of people. The Senate’s vote should be the start of an effort to ensure stronger energy and environmental policies – not a weakening of the laws that have been a keystone of American environmental and human health.

These attempts to undermine the Clean Air Act are an affront to the values and teachings that inspire us as Jews, chief among them the knowledge that it is our responsibility to till and tend the earth and not to exploit it. Now is the time to come together and urge, in the strongest possible terms, that Congress and the President enact and enforce effective energy and environmental policies, for ourselves and our children’s future.