The Supreme Court has been making some interesting choices lately. Over the past few weeks, some big time cases have been considered and rejected by the highest court in land. The justices turned away a case in New Mexico that might settle entrenched disputes over gay rights; they've also refused to hear arguments on a case that might finally put an end to NSA bulk phone record collection.
That doesn't mean that the justices of the Supreme Court have been phoning it in. Quite the opposite, in fact, because while they might not be up to weighing on your right to privacy, they have lots of stuff to say about how much rich people can spend on elections. As we all found out on April 2 when the Supreme Court weighed in on McCutcheon vs. the Federal Election Commission, the answer to that question is: as much as they darn well please.
In a 5-4 vote that went along party lines (because the Supreme Court has those now, let's all just admit that), the justices voted to remove the limit of donations that a single individual can make to candidates, parties and PAC's. Previously, campaign donations worked thusly: a person could donate $2,600 to a candidate, $32,400 to a national political party and $5,000 to a political action committee. They could give and give and give until they reached the overall limit of donations, $123,200. No word on why they had to tack on that extra $200. As a result of the decision, however,
The basis for the decision came from Chief Justice John Roberts who claimed that political donations don't increase corruption. In the decision, he wrote: "Because aggregate limits restricting how much money a donor may contribute to candidates for federal office, political parties, and political action committees do not further the government’s interest in preventing quid pro quo corruption or the appearance of such corruption, while at the same time seriously restricting participation in the democratic process, they are invalid under the First Amendment." It makes total sense, really.
By imposing limits on those people with essentially unlimited funds, we're really restricting their freedom to use that money to influence the world around them. Surely the Supreme Court isn't the first group to view spending money as a viable form of expression. And don't we all want to live in a world where the richest folks on the planet can just use their money to bend people to their will? Excuse me, that's out of line. Chief Justice John Roberts assures me that doesn't happen.
Thanks to the Supreme Court's laughable opinion, people with the disposable income can donate the allowable individual limit to any number of candidates, parties or PAC's that they see fit to reward with their funds. They're still bound by the individual limits, but that doesn't mean they can donate to 15 to 20 candidates or dozens of political action committees each year without worrying about incurring the wrath of the United States government.
According to the USA Today, several states have followed in SCOTUS' footsteps. Massachusetts and Maryland dropped their campaign contributions limit within days of the decision, and as many as 18 more states (plus the District of Columbia) might entertain similar notions. The landmark decision has also ignited a frenzy among America's politicians, who are working overtime (for once) to insure that their campaign has enough funding to buy, er, earn a victory.
The Republicans have put their efforts behind the National Republican Victory Fund, a tested entity that spends its time diverting gobs of cash into local elections to help right-wingers get into office. Under these new guidelines, a single contributor will be able to donate up to $100,000 to the Republican Party.
While you can bet the Democrats will appear to get in a big huff about this verdict, you can also bet liberal-friendly PAC's like the American Bridge 21st Century PAC won't be left out in the cold. After all, in the 2012 election it was the Democrats, not the Republicans, who ultimately raised the most money, even if they didn't spend the most on the outcome.
Sure, the media might claim that unlimited campaign contributions increases corruption rather than diminishes it. I'm pretty sure the Supreme Court knows what it's talking about, though. After all, surely a Supreme Court justice is above petty personal inclinations and the influence of silly stuff like money. And who even cares what the media thinks? They're poor.