The Supreme Court ruled today finding that aggregate limits on federal campaign donations violate the First Amendment’s free speech protection. While the actual limit per candidate remains in place, the limit on how much in total can be donated throughout an election cycle has been lifted.

Report from the Washington Times:

The Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that wealthy donors shouldn’t be limited in how many candidates they can contribute to during an election, though the justices did leave in place the maximum donation that can be made to a single candidate.

The ruling is certain to reignite a debate over the role of money in politics and it enraged Democrats, who argue that conservatives are dismantling the campaign finance system one ruling at a time.

But Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., in the controlling opinion in the 5-4 ruling, said that while the government has an interest in preventing corruption of federal officeholders, individuals have political rights that include being able to give to as many candidates as they want, in order to show support.

“Money in politics may at times seem repugnant to some, but so too does much of what the First Amendment vigorously protects,” the chief justice wrote. “If the First Amendment protects flag burning, funeral protests, and Nazi parades — despite the profound offense such spectacles cause — it surely protects political campaign speech despite popular opposition.”

Under the current limit, a donor can’t give more than $123,200 to candidates, parties and political action committees. Of that, just $48,600 can go directly to candidates.

That means if someone wanted to give the maximum donation, he could only contribute to nine candidates.

Chief Justice Roberts said it made no sense that someone couldn’t give to a 10th candidate or more — and said the government didn’t offer a clear line on where corruption would come into play.

Clearly this impact will be felt in coming election cycles to some extent. Although Super PACs have already provided a vehicle for unlimited spending, the federal limits have capped what a campaign can do directly on behalf of itself.

Exit question: Is this a victory for free speech or a victory for more corruption in politics?

10 COMMENTS

  1. Personally, I don’t think corporations are people, and I don’t believe money is speech. If it were up to me, I’d say if you are not a voter (that is, an eligible individual), you can’t BUY votes. But it’s not up to me.

    Outrageous campaign spending has just been funneled into 501(c)(3) gangs, which has undermined the parties. Now that there are no rules, maybe money will go back to the parties, for better or worse.

  2. A few observations on the decision:

    * Back when the Mc Cain /Feingold bill was signed into law President Bush (W) stated that he believed the law to be “Un constitutional but will sign it into law anyway and let the Supreme Court deal with it.” And they did by eventually over turning it. At the time few could see the immense rise of PAC groups or that candidates would turn down public funding in favor of self funding.

    * On it’s home page “Politico” this morning had adjoining pictures of Republican/conservative donor Charles Koch and Chief Justice Roberts to suggest they were accomplices and add fuel to the fire of Congressman Harry Reid’s recent war against the Koch brothers. (Notice …no mention of George Soros left wing support is ever mentioned.)

    * When political parties suggest they want to do away with “crony capitalism” or complain about the “buying of pardons” Is this just more “lipstick on a pig” in view of this new ruling?

    * When the republican party makes it’s changes to the number of debates and primary dates will this campaign law have any effect on the second tier candidates campaigns?

  3. I see this as the MSM making this a Koch bad guy vs Soros, Buffett, Gates, Apple and all the Celebrities good guys, plus no one needs to hide where the money comes from.

      • Bob:

        That list is ludicrous.

        They pick and choose how to “define” the donors. Look at the opening paragraphs. They arbitrarily avoid including Sheldon Adelson, who would be number two. OR Michael Bloomberg, also for no real reason.

        They also admit that they don’t include “dark money.” AND they count some money twice–once from donors and then, again, the handlers of that same money.

        With all the machinations they admit, you gotta wonder what else figures into their figures.

  4. Nate — your topic should read: “America for Sale”.

    Buying 9 candidates ACROSS THE BOARD, assures the Buyer near 100% return for their money — for whether a Dem or Necon wins, the buyer owns either (the only glitch are Tea Party candidates…since they are not for sale — but no worries, MSM will do their best to vilify them).

    The only question is: Could anyone else outbid the purchasing power of AIPAC and the Military-Industrial Complex in buying Dem and Neocon politicians…?

    The sad answer is — No.

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