Some justices on the Supreme Court have cast an ongoing campaign contribution case as an attack on free speech.
The case – McCutcheon v. FEC – could be the country’s most consequential campaign finance decision, at least in the last few years. Laws passed during the Watergate era capped contributions to candidates during a two-year election cycle at $48,600. Contributions to political parties and committees were capped at $74,600. Through their upcoming decision, the Supreme Court could scrap those limits That would be unwise.
By keeping those campaign finance limits, it ensures needed reforms are kept in place. While no voter should be barred from voicing support for a particularly candidate, the adage “money talks” certainly comes to mind concerning campaign contributions. Whether it’s labor unions and Hollywood elites on the left or big corporations on the right, campaign cash is funneled to candidates so extensively that the average person’s donations easily become dwarfed.
The soccer mom donating to her state’s senator or the construction worker writing a check to his House rep certainly doesn’t carry the influence of a mega-donor who can contribute hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars.
What’s not at stake in the court’s ruling is the base limit for contributions to candidates – $2,600 for both primary and general elections.
But if the aggregate caps are removed, the next challenge could easily be to pull the plug the $2,600 campaign restrictions to individual candidates. Donors can already contribute endless sums to groups known as super PACS, organizations that can engage in political activities, but cannot award money directly to candidates.
Contributions aren’t like putting up a campaign sign in someone’s yard. Donations can go toward cross-country flights, hours of TV exposure, and ads splattered across newspapers and the web. Campaign finance reform has made small steps along the way, garnering bipartisan support, particularly through legislation engineered by Republican Senator John McCain and former Democratic Senator Russ Feingold.
However, the court’s decision could open the flood gates, truly creating an electoral mess for our country.