Rev. William J. Barber, the most visible civil rights leader in North Carolina today, stood in front of the U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C. this week as the court heard arguments on whether campaign contribution limits are constitutional. The president of the North Carolina conference of the NAACP and architect of the Moral Monday movement was speaking at a rally organized by a coalition of groups asking the court to maintain the limits as a way of protecting democracy from corruption. While he was there to discuss McCutcheon v. FEC, Barber also referenced another case. “A few months ago, this court, on a day that shall live in infamy, gutted the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the crown jewel of the Second Reconstruction movement my parents and grandparents fought for,” said Barber. An “extremist anti-democracy faction” in North Carolina’s state legislature, he said, “celebrated the infamous Shelby decision by rolling out the worst voter suppression bill in the country, and they are just waiting to see what the court will do here.”
With arguments in McCutcheon concluded, it seems that the court will most likely strike or at least modify the biennial aggregate limits imposed on individual donors to candidates, parties and political committees. Those limits right now stand at $123,200, which includes a $48,600 cap on donations directed to candidates and restrictions on the number of candidates a single donor can contribute to. But if the aggregate caps are lifted, then one could send the maximum contribution of $2,600 per candidate to all 435 House and 33 Senate races, and a bunch more to state and national parties, to the tune of $3.6 million. That amount could then be “churned” and steered by fundraising committees to specific candidates who would be well aware of who made the large donation.
The Supreme Court ruling on this has “the clear potential to bring about a new constitutional order in campaign finance, in which the very rich might gain even more influence,” Lyle Denniston wrote for SCOTUSblog following the McCutcheon arguments.
Given that civil rights and voting rights advocates like Barber are still reeling from the Shelby ruling that severely compromised the Voting Rights Act, they are hyper-aware of the compounded burden on voters of color and low income if their votes are weighed even less against the influence of wealthy donors. NAACP general counsel Kim Keenan has called this “the two-pronged attack on voter participation against regular people in America.”
“First, powerful and wealthy donors seek to buy as many leaders as they can through enormous contributions,” said Keenan, “then the politicians bankrolled by those donors advance legislation that suppresses the votes of the people who might object.”
Full Article: McCutcheon and the two-pronged attack on voting rights.