In a 5-4 decision today, the Supreme Court of the United States has removed limits on campaign finance contributions. Instead, the Court appears to have left in place limits on donations to a single candidate. The removal of these limits and the reliance single candidate limits is another step in the tradition of this Court to favor the super-wealthy and bow before the altar of big business.
The case is McCutcheon et al. V. Federal Elections Commission (McCutcheon) and at issue was whether the plaintiff, McCutcheon, should be able to contribute to an unlimited number of candidates’ campaigns. He argued that the laws that were in place that placed aggregate limits on the amount of money that can be spent on political contributions prevented him from contributing to the campaigns of 12 candidates; he had already contributed to 16 campaigns at that point.
Prior to McCutcheon, the Court laid waste to campaign finance law in a case known as Citizens United. In that case, the Supreme Court removed limits on anonymous contributions and the formation of political action committees (PACs). These entities could accept unlimited funds and campaign on behalf of a political cause or candidate, so long as they did not coordinate with the candidate.
McCutcheon is a far more devious and potentially disastrous decision than Citizens United. It continues to erode the protections that would prevent quid pro quo corruption. The Court is taking the position that the ability to spend money is the same as speech and should be protected equally.
According to Salon, with the decision the Court made today, “Without aggregate limits, one candidate, through the use of joint fundraising committees, could solicit contributions of more than $3.6 million — an amount more than 70 times the median family income in America — from a single donor.”
The election system, with campaign finance law at its heart, has moved away from protecting the ability of all to be heard and is instead benefiting only those who can afford to be heard.
In the dissenting opinion, Justice Breyer, with Justices Ginsburg, Sotomayor and Kagan, stated that, “Taken together with Citizens United…, today’s decision eviscerates our Nation’s campaign finance laws, leaving a remnant incapable of dealing with the grave problems of democratic legitimacy that those laws were intended to resolve.”
Our elections are screwed.
Joshua is a writer and researcher with Ring of Fire. You can follow him on Twitter @Joshual33.