- Associated Press - Saturday, April 5, 2014

The Boston Globe, April 4, 2014

Federal court rulings in campaign finance cases ought to reflect the reality of how donors and political candidates interact in the real world. Instead, five justices of the U.S. Supreme Court opted Wednesday to tear down yet another control on influence peddling as a violation of the free speech rights of campaign donors. The decision in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission pays no heed to how special interest money corrupts the democratic process and is sure to magnify major donors’ already immense influence over Congress.

In the McCutcheon case, the rule before the court was the $123,200 aggregate limit on the amount of money an individual can contribute to all federal candidates and political committees during a two-year election cycle. For decades, the court has accepted that such a limit is essential to preventing individuals from seeking to game the system. This week, the court insisted that the aggregate rule impairs the free expression of people who want to donate more money to congressional campaigns, and minimized any concerns about big donors gaining too much inside influence over the legislative process.

A four-vote plurality, led by Chief Justice John Roberts, ruled that preventing corruption was a legitimate basis for restricting campaign contributions, but Roberts then defined corruption so narrowly as to include only quid pro quo transactions - for instance, the explicit exchange of donor money for a senator’s vote for or against a bill. In practice, few people are crass or foolish enough to cut such a deal; rather, donors seek to modify or quash legislation in subtler ways, and federal office holders try to accommodate them without leaving any marks on the record. There is zero doubt, in an era when members of Congress devote several hours each day to fundraising, that big donors who help ease the cash crunch gain access and influence that small donors do not.

For now, at least, the $2,600 limit on individual contributions remains in place, and the chief justice’s opinion insists that savvy donors won’t use the McCutcheon ruling to find ways around that individual limit. But of course they will, for in recent years both parties have proved expert at exploiting each new campaign finance loophole that Roberts’s court opens. The Supreme Court’s controversial Citizens United decision, in 2010, upheld the right of independent organizations - groups that may be excluded from standard political circles - to spend unrestricted amounts of money to express their views in political campaigns. In practice, the ruling prompted establishment candidates to set up nominally independent super PACs, collecting gobs of cash from heaven knows whom.

The McCutcheon case is likely to yield the same kind of innovation. In his dissenting opinion, Justice Stephen Breyer described how a complex web of allied political committees would allow like-minded donors to write multimillion dollar checks while staying within Roberts’s legal framework. That dissent, sadly, may now become a road map for donors who would use the McCutcheon case to expand their influence over congressional races.

Foster’s Daily Democrat of Dover (N.H.), March 31, 2014

Get out the camouflage gear and unlock the gun racks, Barbie is under attack.

Going to war to defend one of the most iconic toys of all time is nothing new. So it comes as little surprise she is under attack again by a couple of goody-two-shoes advocacy groups over a partnership between Barbie and the Girls Scouts.

As explained by LicensingMag.com: Mattel and Girl Scouts of the USA have teamed up to create a Barbie Be Anything, Do Everything participation patch for Girl Scout Daisies and Brownies.

“Together with the Girl Scouts, we hope to inspire young leaders and help girls explore all their career possibilities,” says Cathy Cline, vice president, U.S. marketing, Mattel girls’ brands. “For over 50 years, Barbie has encouraged girls to dream and explore a world without limits. This partnership allows us to reach girls with an empowering message and provide them with a new platform to discover and dream.”

The new partnership, writes LicenseMag.com, includes an activity booklet that encourages girls to explore a variety of careers, a uniform patch for girls who complete the booklet and a digital game and poll on the GSUSA website.

Taking exception to the partnership are the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood and the Center for a New American Dream.

“Holding Barbie, the quintessential fashion doll, up as a role model for Girl Scouts simultaneously sexualizes young girls, idealizes an impossible body type and undermines the Girl Scouts’ vital mission,” says Susan Linn, director of a Commercial-Free Childhood.

While we can appreciate Linn’s zeal, her organization seems to be living in another time.

Take for example the popular Monster High doll. One of these makes Barbie look like something out of the television show Honey Boo Boo.

And how do you raise a child commercial-free other than to cloister her in a convent from the time she can crawl or walk?

Besides, if there is a role model to be had for young girls it is Barbie. Sure, her dimensions defy reality. But so do the vast majority of youthful icons, both on toy store shelves and on television (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or Bratz dolls, anyone?)

Truth be told, Barbie offers much in the way of inspiration to our young. Since her creation Barbie has been a nurse, an Arctic rescuer, a chef, and even an astronaut.

And yes, a swim suit model which earned her the cover of Sports Illustrated’s 2014 swimsuit edition.

As we remember being told by the likes of feminist icon Gloria Steinem, women no longer have to be relegated to bare-foot-and-in-the-kitchen status. They can be who they want to be.

And what better way (or one of the ways) to make the point than by offering a playful and often professional role model - Barbie.

You go, girl (Scouts)!

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