BERKELEY -- Roughly 40 people gathered at UC Berkeley's Sproul Hall Plaza late Wednesday afternoon to vent their frustration with the Supreme Court's decision to strike down limits on federal campaign contributions.
"It's so outrageous what they did," fumed longtime Berkeley resident Marty Schiffenbauer. "It's so blatant that the country has become a plutocracy where rich people will be able to pass rules and tax breaks."
Susan Messina was nearby: "We're losing our rights as individual voters," she said. "We're losing our voice. We're losing our power."
The 5-4 ruling on McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission struck down limits on the two-year ceilings on donations to candidates, parties and some political action committees combined. The ruling follows the 2010 Citizens United decision that struck down independent campaign spending limits by corporations and unions.
"When it comes to campaign finance reform, our highest court has reached its lowest point," Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, said in a statement released Wednesday. "This is a bad day for democracy, fairness and equality."
One demonstrator Wednesday who identified herself only as a Vallejo teacher, held a sign saying, "As a public school teacher I'm glad I can now give $3.6 million per election cycle to a single party and its candidates."
Nancy Schimmel, Berkeley musician and storyteller, held a sign that read: "The court from Brandeis to branded," referring to former liberal Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis. She said the only answer to money taking over elections is public financing of campaigns.
People stood in clumps bemoaning the court decision and also the fact that there were not hundreds at the demonstration, until one woman came by to say that MoveOn, the organization that had sponsored this and some 150 protests across the country, had asked people a few hours earlier to go to a larger demonstration in San Francisco rather than the one at Sproul.
"You even get 40 people to a demonstration in Berkeley that's been called off," quipped Mark Coplan, the Berkeley schools communication director, who was at the demonstration with his wife and dog.