What the New Campaign Finance Ruling Means

Republicans cheer, liberals sulk in wake of McCutcheon v. FEC
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 2, 2014 1:44 PM CDT
What the New Campaign Finance Ruling Means

The Supreme Court today struck down longstanding rules capping the total money individuals can donate to politicians, parties, and certain PACs. What does it mean and who does it benefit? Here's a taste of the reaction pouring in from pundits, advocates, and leaders:

  • The court "pressed ahead with the majority's constitutional view that more money flowing into politics is a good thing—even if much of it comes from rich donors," writes Lyle Denniston at SCOTUSBlog. While the ruling "was not as sweeping" as Citizens United, "the practical result of the new ruling is almost sure to be that wealthy individuals ... will be able to spread their money around among more candidates and political groups."

  • The ruling "appears like a winner for the Republican Party," which has a "wider base of mega-donors," observe Mark Murray and Carrie Dann at NBC. But they note that money doesn't always buy victory—Barack Obama was outspent in 2012—and that parties typically adapt to these changes, negating any advantage before long.
  • John Boehner nonetheless celebrated the decision. "Freedom of speech is being upheld," he told reporters, according to Politico. "You all have the freedom to write what you want to write, donors ought to have the freedom to give what they want to give." Mitch McConnell agreed, stressing that the ruling "does not permit one more dime to be given to an individual candidate."
  • Democrat Patrick Leahy, meanwhile, said the court's various moves "have eviscerated our campaign finance laws, while Chuck Schumer called the ruling "a small step, but another step on the road to ruination."
  • Reform advocates are livid, the New York Daily News reports. "The Court has reversed nearly 40 years of its own precedents, laid out a welcome mat for corruption, and turned its back on the lessons learned from the Watergate scandal," complained the president of Common Cause.
  • John Roberts' opinion makes the interesting argument that this will be good for transparency, since more money that would have flowed to unlimited super PACs will now flow to parties and candidates, David Weigel at Slate points out. But he has trouble buying it. "The largest donors in politics have hundreds of millions of dollars to throw around. Are the managers of super PACs truly worried about losing out if those donors can also max out to candidates and parties?"
  • Paul Campos at Salon sees this as a sign that all campaign finance restrictions are doomed. "If the Koch brothers want the First Amendment to mean that rich people have a constitutional right to buy unlimited political influence," they can use their money to "guarantee that five people who sincerely agree with them on this point will be sitting on the Supreme Court."
(More McCutcheon v. FEC stories.)

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