Campaign finance: Freeing the wealthy to contribute more

In “McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission,” the Supreme Court struck down the limit on how much an individual can donate to political candidates.

“Money talks,” said Paul Campos in,and thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court, it will speak louder than ever before. In last week’s sharply split, 5–4 McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission ruling, the Supreme Court took another giant step toward gutting the nation’s campaign-finance laws by striking down the overall limits on how much an individual can donate to political candidates and committees per election cycle. As it did in sanctioning unlimited contributions to Super PACs in Citizens United and other previous rulings, the court’s conservative majority equated money with free speech, thus helping “the rich transform what is putatively a democratic republic into an unapologetic plutocracy.” The Roberts court has handed a real gift to the super-rich, said Alec MacGillis in Before McCutcheon, fat-cat contributors were limited to giving federal candidates and party committees a generous collective total of $123,200 in every federal election cycle. Without the aggregate limit, wealthy donors are now liberated to spend up to $3.6 million on their favored party’s entire roster of congressional candidates and party committees. The 646 super-elite donors who maxed out their campaign contributions last year—and who represent just 0.0000019 percent of Americans—will now have even more leverage over who gets elected to Congress, and what policies they favor once they get there.

Don’t blame the Supreme Court, said Rich Lowry in Blame that annoying First Amendment. It guarantees the right to free speech, whether it’s that of The New York Times, flag burners, neo-Nazis, or successful businessmen who “want to participate in democracy.” The government can make no limits on how many hours you can spend volunteering for a campaign, or how many editorials the Times can write in support of Democrats. Similarly, there should be no limits on how much money an individual can spend to promote his views. Besides, the aggregate contribution limits struck down by the court made no sense, said Walter Weber is If the maximum $2,600 campaign contributions of Alabama businessman Shaun McCutcheon, the plaintiff in the case, weren’t “corrupting” for the first nine candidates who received them, then how could it suddenly become a “grave problem of democratic legitimacy” if he gave the same amount “to 10, 12, or 30 candidates?”

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