The Supreme Court may be ready to flood even more cash into the American system political system.
Three years after its historic Citizens United decision changed campaign finance, the nine justices heard arguments on Tuesday in the case of McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission.
Shaun McCutcheon is a wealthy Alabama businessman who wants to eliminate limits to aggregate political campaign contributions, currently restricted to a mere $123,200. Such limits capped his contributions during the 2012 campaign cycle at $46,200 for candidates and $70,800 to other entities such as political action committees.
If the court rules in McCutcheon’s favor, the country could see an end to restrictions on campaign contributions by individuals — much as the court did away with them in 2010 for institutions in the Citizens United ruling.
Equating money to free speech, McCutcheon is arguing that the current caps are a violation of his Constitutional right. In arguments today, Chief Justice John Roberts seemed to agree, telling the court it “seems to me a very direct restriction” on Americans’ First Amendment rights.
Solicitor General Donald Verrilli warned that lifting the limits would risk creating a government “of, by and for” wealthy donors. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg appeared to echo that view, arguing that donation limits are a great equalizer in American politics. “Contribution limits promote free expression and democratic participation,” she said. “It means the little people count.”
In Part 1, Carmen Russell-Sluchansky spoke the implications of the McCutcheon case with Paul Sherman, a senior attorney with the Institute for Justice, and Rick Esenberg, founder and current President and General Counsel of the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty.
In Part 2, Russell-Sluchansky discussed the case with Professor Charles Friel of Harvard University Law School.