The United States’s corporate-leaning Supreme Court is hearing a case that has the potential to forever change the landscape of political finance contributions. The Court’s decision in McCutcheon v. FEC is likely to take the few remaining holds on campaign contributions off and create the next largest shift in campaigns since Citizens United.
The current case is seeking to overturn campaign finance laws that have been a part of the American political system for more than 30 years. These laws regulate the maximum amount that an individual can contribute to a particular politicians campaign and the aggregate amount that an individual can contribute to federal elections. McCutcheon is arguing that the limits on personal expenditures is unjustly infringing on an individuals right to free speech.
The same form of argument won in the Court’s approval in 2010, allowing for the open season of PACs. Individuals are not limited in the amount they can contribute to PACs, and the PACs are allowed to produce content on behalf of a candidate so long as they adhere to the campaign laws that govern the coordination of the PAC with the campaign – a laughable firewall to most.
However, as the current laws stand, Congress has imposed limits where an individual cannot contribute more than $123,200 in an election cycle. This was done to prevent individuals from being able to contribute to various organizations while knowing that, in actuality, the money will make its way to the politicians and political parties those individuals seek to support. Thus, undermining the very structure of campaign finance restrictions.
What will the Court decide? If the Court’s decisions in Citizens and Shelby County are any indication of its leanings, voters should prepare themselves to see the political landscape make a seismic shift. The only question that seems to remain is whether the Court will make direct contributions equitable to freedom of speech or freedom of association. If direct contributions are viewed as speech, the ability of the government to restrict is much less. Whereas, if direct contributions are ruled to be equitable to association, there may still be hope to restrict it and prevent the waters from rising.