This week, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a 5-4 ruling in the case of McCutcheon v Federal Election Commission.
The ruling struck down a federal law that restricts how much money a donor may contribute in total to all candidates or committees.
There is much misreporting of this decision.
Reports Jim Babka from Downsize DC, “Like Citizens United before it, the shrieking needs to be misleading to work. The exaggeration and outright lying has already begun. The ever-shrill Common Cause alleged that, The Supreme Court just… 1) Gaveled in a new era of political corruption; 2) Made it easier to bribe politicians; The truth is, the McCutcheon decision was actually pretty mundane.”
There are still limits in place on how much money an individual can donate to any particular candidate, political party or political action committee.
Before the McCutcheon decision, an individual was limited to $123,200 in contributions in a campaign season.
Now, there is no limit to the aggregate amount that can be donated. The contribution limit to a particular candidate has not been eliminated.
Babka rhetorically asks, “Does anyone honestly believe that a mere $2,600 contribution is going to swing a federal election?”
“If not, then how much more ‘king-making’ power has been granted to wealthy individual donors, now capable of giving to 20 or more candidates, when before this week, they could only give to 18 1/2?”
SCOTUSBlog adds, “Donors will get into legal trouble, the ruling emphasized, only if they demand a specific favor in policy or legislation in a direct exchange for the money they give.”
Despite claims to the contrary, political incumbents and the two major parties are further advantaged by campaign finance “reforms” that limit campaign donations and expenditures. For example, the major parties have granted themselves guaranteed spots on general election ballots; while, in most states, placing sizable barriers on minor party and independent candidates ability to get on the ballot.
Richard Winger, editor of Ballot Access News, writes, “It probably would cost $50,000 for paid petitioners to get even one independent or minor party candidate on the ballot in Georgia for US House. That law has existed since 1943, the year I was born… If that limit were abolished, the goal [of getting a minor party or independent candidate on the ballot in my lifetime] could be realized.”
Winger adds that if current campaign restrictions had been in place in 1968, Eugene McCarthy could not have launched his presidential bid because he was funded by multi-millionaire Stewart Mott.
It’s not enough to simply allow someone to donate to a few more candidates.
To have truly free elections all participation barriers need to be removed.