Posted by Jack
WASHINGTON (CBS News/CBSDC/AP) — The Supreme Court has struck down limits in federal law on the overall campaign contributions the biggest individual donors may make to candidates, political parties and political action committees.
The justices said in a 5-4 vote Wednesday that Americans have a right to give the legal maximum to candidates for Congress and president, as well as to parties and PACs, without worrying that they will violate the law when they bump up against a limit on all contributions, set at $123,200 for 2013 and 2014. That includes a separate $48,600 cap on contributions to candidates.
The case, McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, did not call into question the maximum amount an individual can donate to a single candidate or political party in a two-year election cycle — those limits are $2,600 to a candidate, $32,400 to a national political party and $5,000 to a political committee.
Chief Justice John Roberts announced the decision, which split the court’s liberal and conservative justices. Roberts said the aggregate limits do not act to prevent corruption, the rationale the court has upheld as justifying contribution limits.
The overall limits “intrude without justification on a citizen’s ability to exercise ‘the most fundamental First Amendment activities,'” Roberts said, quoting from the court’s seminal 1976 campaign finance ruling in Buckley v. Valeo.
Justice Clarence Thomas agreed with the outcome of the case, but wrote separately to say that he would have gone further and wiped away all contribution limits.
Eliminating aggregate limits may now set the stage for striking down all contribution limits. “At that point, we would be back to the 19th Century and the Robber Baron era,” Wertheimer said, calling the court’s eventual decision in McCutcheon “potentially much more dangerous than the Citizens United decision.”
Fred Wertheimer, founder of the nonprofit Democracy 21, defended the limits, told CBS News’ Jan Crawford in October that the ability to financially influence effectively every race in the nation goes too far.
“The bottom line is you cannot allow individuals to give, and office holders to solicit, million-dollar and $2 million contributions without corrupting our political system and corrupting our democracy,” he said. “The Supreme Court has never said that contributions represent free speech that cannot be limited.”
Reaction to the ruling generally followed party lines, with advocates of capping money in politics aligned with Democrats in opposition to the decision.
For more on this story click here.
Note from Jack: The only exception to this rule is when money can be clearly demonstrated to determine outcome. When money becomes so onerous, limits may be applied. It may be unclear to the Supremes, but it’s not to most voters. Big money IS buying elections and big money IS buying legislation every day across America.
The San Jose Mercury Newspaper won a Pulitzer Prize for exposing campaign contributions are linked directly lawmakers decisions to propose special interest legislation. Thus the term….”follow the money” came into vogue.
Once again, one Judge has decided the fate of millions of voters who wanted to reform campaign finance and clean up politics. 5-4 votes like this recent ruling tell me that this issue is not over.