Supreme Court Shaves Campaign Finance Law, South Carolina Debates Origins of Columbian Mammoth

From the Supreme Court, to the halls of South Carolina’s legislature, last week’s legal news covered a range of topics from campaign finance reform to the creation and origin of woolly mammoths.

Supreme Court Strikes Limit on Campaign Finance Contributions

Last week, the Supreme Court caused some legal waves by eliminating limits on how much money private donors can contribute to political campaigns.  The case, McCutcheon v Federal Election Commission (FEC), challenged provisions of the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1974 that capped the amount a donor may give during a two-year election cycle at $123,000.  Arguing that the $123,000 cap was a violation of his constitutional right to express his political support via donations, Alabama resident Shaun McCutcheon cited the first amendment right to free speech as the basis for his lawsuit.  In a contested 5-4 opinion, the Supreme Court majority agreed with McCutcheon, and, in doing so, stirred up national debate over campaign finance law.

Although the Court left untouched the $5,200 limit that donors can give to specific candidates, critics of the McCutcheon ruling claim that the majority’s deregulation of campaign finance opens the door to allowing wealthy citizens and organizations increased control over politics.  Cautioning that allowing wealthy donors to funnel money into political causes without limitation starts American politics down a slippery slope towards corruption, dissenting Justice Stephen Breyer and Republican Senator John McCain headlined notable opposition to the Court’s decision to shave provisions of campaign finance regulation.

Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for the majority, defended the decision by claiming that there are sufficient laws in place to prevent “quid-pro-quo” corruption between donor and political candidate, and highlighted that fact that political donations to a specific person are still capped at $5,200.  The ruling should not come as surprise, as it is consistent with the approach to campaign finance taken by the conservative elements of the Supreme Court, and is in line with 2010’s Citizen’s United v Federal Election Commission – which allowed corporations, labor unions, and nonprofit advocacy groups to donate more freely.  The Robert’s Court has established a clear position on campaign finance law – the concerns over political corruption are not sufficient to allow regulations on political spending that violate first amendment rights to freedom of speech as expressed through political contributions.

South Carolina Close to Vote Columbian Mammoth as State Fossil

This week, 8-year-old Olivia McConnell may finally see her dream bill pass through the South Carolina state legislation, leading her state to formally recognize the Columbian Mammoth as the state’s official fossil.  After careful research into the history of the Columbian Mammoth, young Olivia noted that South Carolina, one of only 9 states without an official fossil, was home to the beasts during the ice age – making the mammoth a logical choice for the state fossil.

Although a seemingly simple piece of legislation, House Bill 4482 was not passed without significant debate, largely centered on how to acknowledge the existence of an animal that may conflict with religious views on creation vs. evolution.  Upon first receiving the bill, some lawmakers became concerned that recognizing the fossil of an animal that pre-dates humanity would call to question the Bible’s story of creation, and attempted to insert passages of Genesis to ensure the origins of the mammoth were properly established.  In an effort to compromise the conflicting positions, the South Carolina legislature amended the bill to include reference to the Creator, leaving it to read as follows:

“The Columbian Mammoth, which was created on the Sixth Day with the other beasts of the field, is designated as the official State Fossil of South Carolina and must be officially referred to as the 'Columbian Mammoth', which was created on the Sixth Day with the other beasts of the field."

The bill also enacted a moratorium on the establishment of all future state symbols, saving South Carolina from future concern over the meaning and origin of officially recognized imagery. 

Subway Close to Footlong Lawsuit Settlement

Popular sandwich chain, Subway, has reached an agreement with plaintiffs who sued the restaurant for misrepresenting the size of its footlong sub.  In a consolidated case heard by a federal judge in Wisconsin, eleven plaintiffs joined together in their efforts for legal recompense over Subway’s failure to provide 12 inch subs as promised by advertisement.  With subs consistently measuring at 11 inches, the plaintiffs took their claim to the law, and forced the popular fast food chain to defend itself in court. Although the case was brought before a judge, the sides were able to resolve the dispute in mediation – leaving the details of their agreement undisclosed.

In its only public response to the lawsuit, Subway has promised to “redouble its efforts to ensure consistency and correct length” in all of its footlong sandwiches.  Patrons of the establishment are free to measure sandwiches going forward, knowing full well that the law may very well be on their side should the company continue to come up an inch short of expectation.

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