The Supreme Court struck down the limits to the number of candidates a person is allowed to give money to and the total amount you are allowed to give. Left standing is the limit a person can give to one candidate–$48,600–but the law had limited total giving to $123,200. That meant that a donor wanting to give the maximum amount could only support nine candidates.
I know that critics of the ruling are claiming that this opens the door to political corruption and gives rich people the opportunity to buy candidates. But are there any constitutional grounds for objecting to this ruling? Aren’t limitations of political activity unconstitutional on the face of it?
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.
But defenders of the law posed a hypothetical, saying that if someone were allowed to give the maximum to every political candidate and party, it could amount to $3.5 million — which could then be redistributed to other campaigns by the candidates and parties themselves
Strict campaign finance advocates said they feared those candidates and parties could then collude and siphon the money back to a single candidate the donor had wanted to benefit in the first place, which would effectively break the contribution limit.