Making Citizens United Worse

The Supreme Court has granted cert in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, a case that could potentially make the result in Citizens United much worse by allowing essentially unlimited contributions to political candidates and parties.

This case, in which the Republican National Committee is co-plaintiff, is seeking to eliminate the two-year maximum caps on total campaign contributions to candidates and political parties. That cap now stands at $2,600 for individual candidates and $123,200 for total contributions (not counting third party groups like Super PACs, 527s and 501(c)(4)s, which can get unlimited amounts of money from anyone). But even though the case would leave the cap on contributions to individual candidates in place, lifting the cap on party contributions would make those limits meaningless:

Eliminating the aggregate limits means an individual might, for example, give half-a-million dollars in a single check to a joint fundraising committee comprising a party’s presidential candidate, the party’s national party committee, and most of the party’s state party committees. After the fundraiser, the committees are required to divvy the contributions to ensure that no committee receives more than its permitted share, but because party committees may transfer unlimited amounts of money to other party committees of the same party, the half-a-million-dollar contribution might nevertheless find its way to a single committee’s coffers. That committee, in turn, might use the money for coordinated expenditures, which have no “significant functional difference” from the party’s direct candidate contributions. The candidate who knows the coordinated expenditure funding derives from that single large check at the joint fundraising event will know precisely where to lay the wreath of gratitude.

It’s a loophole that would eliminate any meaningful limits on campaign contributions. And I’d bet a pretty sizable amount of money that the five conservatives will vote to do exactly that. They made quite clear in Citizens United that they are on a crusade to gut this country’s campaign finance laws, even going much further than the plaintiffs in that case asked them to do.

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  • glodson

    The only thing I can hope is that if they actually make Citizen’s United worse is that we see no real effect on the viability of the GOP in the next election cycle. I can only hope this results in more rich people flushing millions down the drain on bad candidates.

  • ArtK

    US: The best government that money can buy

  • justawriter

    I am sure that Scalia will say that the law in all its majesty will allow the poor to contribute millions to their preferred candidates as well the rich. (#sarcasm, just in case Scalia can’t tell)

  • roggg

    Maybe I misunderstand the law in this area, but I was under the impression that Super PACs already eliminated any meaningful limits on campaign contributions. Maybe I’m a cynic, but I dont see how eliminating the middle man makes things any worse.

  • Ichthyic

    I can only hope this results in more rich people flushing millions down the drain on bad candidates.

    that this is wished for as a result points to just how bad things have gotten I suppose.

  • Now, look, rich people deserve a voice, too! It’s right there in the Constitution of Independence; “All Men are created equal”.*


    * After that, YMMV.