Though many have decried the presence of big money in campaign politics, the Supreme Court of the United States has issued a decision that’s likely to make that money even bigger. On April 2, the SCOTUS removed certain stipulations of federal campaign finance laws that will now allow donors to give to campaigns with fewer restrictions.
A 5-4 decision, with the majority coming from the Court’s more conservative justices, sealed the deal.
The ruling removes the limits of the total amount of money that a donor can provide to candidates as well as state and local political committees. Previously aggregate donations were limited to $48,600 for candidates and $74,600 for committees.
The decision will not impact the total that can be given per candidate, which remains $5,200, split evenly between primaries and general election campaigns, but it now makes it possible to donate to as many candidates as a donor would like.
Should a donor choose to donate to every candidate and political committee in their party they have the option to do so.
The court opinion, written by Chief Justice Roberts, said, “[t]here is no right more basic in our democracy than the right to participate in electing our political leaders.” Roberts and Justices Kennedy, Thomas, Scalia, and Alito have previously pushed for a reduction in campaign financing regulation, and do not believe that an infusion of money is corollary to an increase in corruption.
In his dissenting opinion justice Stephen Breyers wrote, “where enough money calls the tune, the general public will not be heard.”
Not surprisingly, reactions from sitting government members were split along party lines, with Republicans in favor of the changes and Democrats warning against the addition of more private funding.
“It is the right of the individual, and not the prerogative of Congress, to determine how many candidates and parties to support,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. McConnell was a plaintiff in the case McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, which prompted the ruling.
“I’m concerned about what it means for our democracy. Our founders, they sacrificed their lives, their liberty, their sacred honor for a democracy: a government of the many, not a government of the money,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, said in an interview with Reuters.
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