The U.S. Supreme Court Wednesday, saying that allowing a nearly unlimited flow of money into elections has no chance of leading to corruption, lifted the overall limit on how much cash wealthy individuals can pour into a single election cycle.
Former U.S. Treasury Secretary Robert Reich immediately blasted the 5-4 Supreme Court decision, saying that it opens the door for the richest Americans to purchase “unparalleled personal influence in Washington, drowning out the voices of ordinary citizens.”
Reich called the Supreme Court decision in the case of McCutcheon vs. Federal Election Commission, “the most brazen invitation to oligarchy in Supreme Court history.”
“Oligarchy” is defined in the dictionary as “a form of government in which all power is vested in a few persons; government by the few.”
Supreme Court Says Corruption Not A Worry With Unlimited Money
The Obama administration had argued that lifting the limits opened the door to political corruption, but in his majority opinion, Chief Justice John Roberts said that the limits, “do little, if anything, to address that concern, while seriously restricting participation in the democratic process.”
In a dissenting opinion, Justice Stephen Breyer said that the Supreme Court decison “eviscerates our nation’s campaign finance laws.”
Court Ruling Abolishes Overall Campaign Spending Limits
While the decision did not erase the limit on how much a single donor can give to an individual candidate, it lifted restrictions on the total amount one person can spread among any number of candidates or party organizations during a two-year federal election cycle.
The limit, prior to Wednesday’s ruling, was $123,000. But under the new ruling, a single rich person can give as much as he or she wants, as long as no single candidate receives more than $5,200.
While the ruling in theory applies to any campaign donor, in effect it gives a green light to the wealthiest individuals to further influence the political process with cash, since most Americans could simply not afford to spend more than $123,000 backing political candidates in a two-year span.
But now a person who can afford to spend millions of dollars to influence elections is free to do so. The Supreme Court ruled that the right to spend as much money as possible on political candidates is covered by First Amendment protections of free speech.
Republicans Hail Supreme Court Decision To Allow Unlimited Election Money
The Republican National Committee, which backed the plaintiff in the case — that is, opposed the spending limits — was thrilled by the Supreme Court decision.
“Today’s Court decision in McCutcheon v FEC is an important first step toward restoring the voice of candidates and party committees and a vindication for all those who support robust, transparent political discourse,” said RNC Chairman Reince Priebus. “When free speech is allowed to flourish, our democracy is stronger.”
But Fred Wertheimer, an attorney who has been a longtime advocate of campaign finance limits, said that the ability to spend money is not the same as “free speech.”
The Supreme Court ruling will “destroy the nation’s campaign finance laws, which were enacted to prevent corruption and protect the integrity of our democracy,” he said.
The five Supreme Court justices who voted to lift the limits and allow wealthy donors to further influence elections were all appointees of Republican presidents. The four dissenters were appointed by democrats.