Last week, the US Supreme Court struck down restrictions on how much individual donors can contribute to candidates, political parties and political action committees. The Court voted along its party lines, with a 5(Republican)-4 (Democrat) finding that aggregate limits for individual contributions violate the First Amendment right to free speech. The outcome however, clearly amounts to less political influence for those who cannot afford large political donations. Those who value democracy have cause for concern.
Aggregate contribution limits were first introduced following the Watergate scandal in an effort to restore public confidence in the campaign finance system.
“The decision in the case — McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission — effectively erases the $48,600 limit that individuals may donate in total to candidates for federal office, as well as the $74,600 limit on contributions to political party committees. The decision leaves in place the $2,600 cap that an individual can give to any single candidate for Congress or the presidency. Yet even with that cap, individuals will now be free to spend as much as $3.7 million per election cycle, according to an estimate from the Center for Responsive Politics, up from the previous limit of $123,200.”
This Frontline report from 2012 is worth a revisit in consideration of this recent development. See: Big Sky, Big Money