Because there's not enough money in politics and elections already, the United States Supreme Court has agreed to hear a challenge to the current biennial limits on individual campaign contributions. This time around, it's likely they'll bolster the Citizens United with a parallel decision lifting limits on what individuals may contribute to individual candidates, because money is speech, right?
Huffington Post reports:
The case, McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, argues that the limit on what individuals are allowed to give candidates ($46,200 per two-year cycle) and parties and PACs ($70,800 per two-year cycle) is an unconstitutional violation of the individual donor's free speech rights.
The U.S. Court of Appeals already ruled in favor of keeping the biennial limits, which have been in place since 1971 and were upheld in the 1976 Buckley v. Valeo case. By accepting the case, the court is stepping into the thick of another controversial campaign finance case just three years after ruling in Citizens United v. FEC that corporations and unions can spend freely on elections.
If the court rules against the two-year limits, it would mark the first time a court has overturned a part of the landmark Buckley ruling that deals with campaign contribution limits. This is not terribly surprising as the court has been hostile to campaign finance laws ever since Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, a supporter of campaign finance regulation, was replaced by Justice Samuel Alito, a member of the court's conservative bloc who is opposed to campaign regulation.
Campaign finance reformers are already calling on the court to maintain the Buckley precedent and rule against the challenge in McCutcheon, for fear that any overturning of Buckley will eventually lead to future erosion of contribution limits and other campaign finance precedents meant to protect against corruption or the appearance of corruption.
I think we can predict the outcome on this, can't we? After the Montana case where they ruled that there was no corruption because of excessive money in campaigns even though the Montana law was passed to prevent rampant corruption, I'm certain those limits will go away.
If Congress has any will for anything, they should quit trying to limit campaign contributions and instead focus on real-time disclosure. If the Supreme Court is going to allow unlimited money, we should expect to know in real time who is spending that money. I don't want any nonsense about anonymous speech, either. Voters have a right to assign weight to a candidate's motives based upon who is paying for them to ascend to office. In real time. Not eighteen or twenty months past the election.
We're not going to win the limits argument with this court. But we might win the disclosure argument handily in lieu of the actual solution -- an amendment to the constitution.