A U.S. Supreme Court ruling that struck down the overall cap on federal election contributions is sending ripples across American politics, as states have begun backing away from their own restrictions on donations and lawyers are forecasting a new wave of challenges to campaign finance laws nationwide. The court’s 5-4 ruling on Wednesday was unsettling for many Washington fundraisers, donors and lobbyists who were comfortable with federal rules that had limited total donations to candidates and party groups to $123,200 in the 2014 election cycle. Now, thanks to the court’s decision in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, donors who are able to give millions of dollars to candidates and their parties will see their influence expanded – much as it was by a 2010 ruling that inspired the creation of independent “Super PACs” and other groups that could receive unlimited donations.
Both rulings are part of a series of decisions by the conservative-led Supreme Court that have given big-money donors more influence in U.S. elections.
Republicans, who generally favor lifting finance limits, have praised the rulings as a boost to political free speech. Democrats, who typically argue for tighter restrictions based on concerns that the wealthy otherwise could have undue influence over American politics, have criticized the court’s ruling.
On Thursday, there was a sense in both parties that Republicans and other boosters of free spending in elections not only were winning the legal war over campaign finance, but were likely to keep winning it.