Supreme Court Continued Today on its March to Destroy the Nation’s Campaign Finance Laws Enacted to Prevent Corruption

The Supreme Court in the McCutcheon decision today overturned 40 years of national policy and 38 years of judicial precedent to strike down the overall limits on the total contributions from an individual to federal candidates and to party committees in an election cycle.

With its decision today in McCutcheon, the Supreme Court majority continued on its march to destroy the nation’s campaign finance laws, which were enacted to prevent corruption and protect the integrity of our democracy.

The Supreme Court majority voted in McCutcheon todayto license the further corruption of our democracy. The Court re-created the system of legalized bribery today that existed during the Watergate days.

The same Supreme Court majority struck down the longstanding ban on corporate expenditures in federal elections in the 2010 Citizens United decision. That decision paved the way for vast amounts of unlimited contributions and secret money to be spent to distort federal elections and corrupt government decisions.

With its Citizens United and McCutcheon decisions, the Supreme Court has turned our representative system of government into a sandbox for America’s billionaires and millionaires to play in.

The Court’s decisions have empowered a new class of American political oligarchs.

These Court decisions have come at the enormous expense of the voices and interests of more than 300 million Americans.

The McCutcheon decision represents the first time that the Supreme Court has reversed a holding in its landmark decision in Buckley v. Valeo (1976) and the first time the Court has struck down a core federal contribution limit.

The decision also represents a continuing failure by the Supreme Court majority to recognize the widespread opportunities for corruption that the Court is creating with its misguided decisions.

The Supreme Court majority overrode the Legislative and Executive Branches to empower a minuscule number of millionaires and billionaires to use their wealth to exercise extraordinary distortive influence over federal officeholders, government decisions and elections.

The Supreme Court, as a practical matter, also overturned today its 2003 decision in the McConnell case upholding a prohibition on large contributions (soft money) to political parties and its 2010 decision in the RNC case. The RNC decision reaffirmed the McConnell decision by a 6 to 3 vote, with Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito voting in the majority in this case.

Today’s Court decision also eviscerated the existing restrictions on the solicitation of large contributions by federal officeholders and candidates.

Thus, the Supreme Court has reestablished the dangerous corrupting nexus between large  contributions from influence-seeking donors and federal officeholders soliciting these contributions.

The Supreme Court pointed out in upholding the solicitation restrictions in the McConnell case, “Large soft-money donations at a candidate’s or officeholder’s behest give rise to all of the same corruption concerns posed by contributions made directly to the candidate or officeholder.”

The Court stated, “Though the candidate may not ultimately control how the funds are spent, the value of the donation to the candidate or officeholder is evident from the fact of the solicitation itself.”

The Supreme Court’s decision will allow federal officeholders to solicit and individual donors to contribute more than $1 million per donor to national parties through joint fundraising committees.

The Court’s decision also will allow federal officeholders to solicit, and individual donors to contribute, more than $2 million per donor to joint fundraising committees supporting federal candidates.

And the decision will allow federal officeholders to solicit, and individual donors to contribute, more than $3 million per donor to joint fundraising committees supporting federal candidates and the candidates’ party committees.

These are the kind of huge contributions that create an inherently corrupt system, as the Supreme Court found in Buckley.

The history of money in American politics is that officeholders, candidates and political operatives will do whatever they are allowed to do.  This is what we saw with the now prohibited soft money system in the 1990s. This is what we saw are seeing with the new era of Super PACs.

And this is what we can now expect to see with candidates and parties using joint fundraising committees to raise seven figure contributions, now that the overall contribution limits have been struck down.

(See The McCutcheon Case: The Legal and Political Consequences if the Supreme Court Strikes Down Overall Contribution Limits by Fred Wertheimer.)

The current Supreme Court majority repeatedly has disregarded Congressional and Presidential expertise on campaign finance laws, while failing to recognize the widespread opportunities for corruption they have created with their misguided campaign finance decisions.

The Supreme Court majority has refused to learn the lessons of history from our past corruption scandals and from decades of corrective actions taken to protect citizens against government corryption.

National Movement for Campaign Finance Reform

Despite the current Supreme Court’s destructive decisions, a growing national reform movement is aggressively pursuing the battle to repair our campaign finance system. Citizens have never accepted the corruption of our political system and our democracy and will not do so today.

Campaign finance reforms have worked in the past and they will work again in the future. Major reforms can be effectively implemented even within the parameters of the Court’s destructive decisions.

The Empowering Citizens Act, H.R. 270, sponsored by Representatives David Price (D-NC) and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), is the most comprehensive campaign finance reform legislation pending in Congress.

The legislation would repair the presidential public financing system, create a similar financing system for congressional races, prevent individual candidate Super PACs and strengthen the rules prohibiting coordination between outside spending groups and candidates.

H.R. 270 is the only legislation pending in Congress that would repair the presidential financing system and the only pending legislation that would prevent individual candidate Super PACs.

H.R. 270 would empower ordinary Americans by providing citizens with the ability to have their small contributions to federal candidates matched with multiple public funds. Tens of millions of citizens giving small contributions magnified in importance by multiple public funds would serve as a strong counterforce to big money in American politics.

The legislation’s public matching funds system would also provide federal candidates with the opportunity to run for office without becoming dependent on or obligated to influence-seeking funders.

Editorials in The New York Times and The Washington Post have described the Price-Van Hollen bill as “vital” reform legislation.

The most recent Times editorial endorsing Price-Van Hollen (February 16, 2014) focused on its provisions to end individual candidate Super PACs.  The Times editorial described these Super PACs as “a truly toxic force in American politics” and described the Price-Van Hollen provisions to end them as representing “the best chance for ridding politics of special-interest cash and preventing another era of scandal.”

The DISCLOSE Act, H.R. 148, pending in Congress and sponsored by Representative Van Hollen would close gaping campaign finance disclosure loopholes that were used by nonprofit groups in the 2012 elections to launder more than $300 million in secret contributions into federal elections.

Campaign finance disclosure laws have consistently been upheld as constitutional by the Supreme Court, most recently in 2010 by an 8 to 1 vote in Citizens United. The Supreme Court has upheld disclosure laws as necessary to prevent corruption and to provide voters with information they are entitled to know.