Another win for the 1%

Today, in the much-anticipated case of McCutcheon v. FEC, the Supreme Court threw out aggregate limits on campaign contributions.  In a nutshell, what this means is that you still can only donate $2,600 to any particular candidate, but the two-year overall limit of $123,200 in total donations is gone.  The vote was 5-4 (surprise!), with Justice Thomas writing separately to state his view that the whole system should be blown up, and he didn’t join Chief Justice Roberts’ opinion because, in his view, it didn’t go far enough.  Justice Breyer (joined by Justices Ginsburg, Sotomayor, and Kagan) filed a vigorous dissent: “Taken together with Citizens United v. Federal Election Comm’n, 558 U. S. 310 (2010), today’s decision eviscerates our Nation’s campaign finance laws, leaving a remnant incapable of dealing with the grave problems of democratic legitimacy that those laws were intended to resolve…. The result, as I said at the outset, is a decision that substitutes judges’ understandings of how the political process works for the understanding of Congress; that fails to recognize the difference between influence resting upon public opinion and influence bought by money alone; that overturns key precedent; that creates huge loopholes in the law; and that undermines, perhaps devastates, what remains of campaign finance reform.”

Obviously, this decision directly affects only the very, very wealthy, since they are the only ones likely to want to blow through more than a hundred grand in political donations every couple of years.  So, really, what could go wrong?

I haven’t yet read the opinion, but one imagines that a direct challenge to whatever is left of Buckley v. Valeo, which upheld the individual campaign contributions in the 1970s, is soon to come, and unless the membership of the Supreme Court changes between now and then, those limits seem likely to suffer the same fate as the aggregate limits did today.


9 Comments . Leave a comment below.
  1. Brutal

    To be fair,it is consistent with their philosophy. Money that’s been earned has a right to be spent,in the manner the person chooses.

    But there’s something perverse and anti-democratic about it. It’s not realistic to expect this court to rule otherwise. A future court might.

  2. Thanks to the Supreme Court

    We now have the worst government that money can buy!

  3. I have to confess...

    …I had forgotten that aggregate limits existed. We need to publicly fund candidates and insist on disclosure of donors for independent expenditures.

  4. Not like spending billions got anyone much in 2012

    Reminds me of the nuclear arms race.

    • Spending billions got them

      the agenda. And the right to exclude fundamental change from it.

      As the adverts say: Priceless.

    • I disagree

      We have an allegedly Democratic president who has governed like a Republican since the day he took office. Mr. Obama comes down to the right of Richard Nixon on a host of issues. We have long ago discarded even the pretense that broadcasters have any obligation to avoid political bias in their news reporting, and a mainstream network that is the communications arm of the GOP.

      The very fact that the GOP remains a player in the national or local political game demonstrates that the billions spent in 2012 achieved a great deal. The fact that a Democratic administration plays to the GOP agenda, and a Democratic Senate allows the GOP to routinely paralyze it, shows that those billions bought approximately what the One Percent desired … utter and complete control of federal policy. The declared party affiliation doesn’t count — the policy that emerges is the prize.

      The Supreme Court is now, officially, another division of One Percent LLP. The leveraged buyout of the federal government makes OP LLP the largest single player in the world.

  5. Never forget

    When Mr. Roberts was being confirmed, 22 Democrats (including Joe Biden) voted to support him. There was no filibuster or threat of a filibuster. Had Democrats stood as firmly against the appointment of Mr. Roberts as Republicans have stood against virtually EVERY action by Mr. Obama, we might not be having this exchange today.

    The nomination of Mr. Roberts should have been filibustered. We progressives must never forget how our own party has let us down, and we must never forget how resolutely the GOP opposition fights against us.

    • The "Gang of 14" reached a deal

      Republicans promised not to abolish the filibuster so long as Democrats promised not to use it. So we’re stuck with about 40 years of Roberts and Sam Alito. All the more bitterly ironic now that Republicans call the scaling back of the filibuster the most scurrilous act in the nation’s history, even though Pat Leahy still lets a single Republican block a nominee.

      This is why I wasn’t moved by the arguments that Democrats should preserve the filibuster because they would want it when they were in the minority again. Anyone who thinks the GOP actually would allow a Democratic minority to block things through filibuster as the GOP has done for seven years doesn’t understand the way the GOP works.

  6. The 700 club

    According to NPR’s On-Point, approximately 700 Americans hit the threshold that provoked this decision.

    This is one of the consequences of Gerald Ford’s pardon of Richard Nixon. This “700 club” believes, like all too many others today, that Richard Nixon was an innocent man hounded from office by a partisan witch-hunt. Because the trial never took place, we will never the full truth of how those suitcases and bags filled with cash got into the Nixon re-election campaign in the first place.

    The intellectual context for this ruling is the presumption, now being treated as fact, that the post-Watergate restrictions on spending were more examples of Democratic partisanship. Those of us old enough to remember the truth are dying, and 1%’s ownership of the mainstream news media ensures that a growing number of Americans will join the GOP in its delusions about the Watergate era and about the pernicious influence of money on government.

    So in a nation of 317 M people, our government has now ruled that the “first amendment” rights of an infinitesimal — 0.00022% — fraction of the population trump the best interests of all.

    SEVEN HUNDRED people, of three hundred seventeen million. Seven hundred of the wealthiest Americans have been granted essentially unlimited influence and power over our government.

    Yesterday was yet another black day for America.

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Tue 21 Feb 8:32 PM