The constitutionality of limits on Alaska campaign contributions is challenged in a new federal lawsuit filed on Wednesday. Three individuals and the local chapter of the Alaska Republican Party filed the lawsuit against the executive director and board of the Alaska Public Offices Commission, which enforces state political financing laws. The suit alleges that four aspects of campaign laws violate the U.S Constitution: a $500 limit on individual contributions to a candidate, a $500 limit on individual contributions to a group, the $3,000 limit on out-of-state contributions, and limits on political party contributions.Full Article: Group files federal lawsuit challenging Alaska campaign contribution limits | Local News - KTUU.com Anchorage.
McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission
Editorials: The Warnings About The Supreme Court’s Dangerous Campaign Finance Ruling Are Now Coming True | Paul Blumenthal/Huffington Post
Presidential candidates from both parties are going to solicit six and seven-figure contributions directly from donors for the first time in a decade, thanks to looser campaign finance rules enacted by the Supreme Court and Congress in recent years. Both parties are pushing wealthy donors to give more than $1 million for the 2016 presidential campaign, according to The Washington Post. Their efforts mark the first $1 million party campaign solicitations since the 2002 McCain-Feingold Act banned individual donors from making “soft money” donations — or unlimited contributions to political parties — in an effort to curtail opportunities for corruption. (Corporations are still banned from making “soft money” donations to parties.) The Supreme Court upheld this ban in 2003. Yet thanks to another Supreme Court ruling a decade later, as well as a congressional decision in 2014 to increase party contribution limits, Hillary Clinton’s campaign will now be able to ask single donors to contribute approximately $1.3 million over the two-year 2016 election cycle — and could potentially raise more. Her Republican rivals could follow her lead.Full Article: The Warnings About The Supreme Court's Dangerous Campaign Finance Ruling Are Now Coming True.
The Supreme Court has effectively decided to consider the question of who qualifies as the constituent of a legislator, and, as Joey Fishkin has pointed out, it got into this question from a different perspective in its most recent campaign finance decision, McCutcheon. There the Court included in that category donors, including out-of-jurisdiction donors. Is it possible that this Court would conclude that a donor is a constituent but that for purposes of the constitutional question presented in Evenwel , a resident under the age of 18 or a noncitizen is not? Fishkin writes: “[W]ho counts as a constituent? That’s the question, long latent, that the Court has decided to decide in Evenwel.”Full Article: The Supreme Court and the "Constituent" -.
National: Wealthy political donors seize on new latitude to give to unlimited candidates | The Washington Post
Andrew Sabin gave Republicans so much money in 2012 that he accidentally went over a limit on how much individuals could donate to federal candidates and party committees. So Sabin, who owns a New York-based precious-metals refining business, was delighted when the Supreme Court did away with the limit in April. Since then, he has been doling out contributions to congressional candidates across the country — in Colorado, Texas, Iowa and “even Alaska,” he said. Top Republicans have taken notice: Sen. Ted Cruz (Tex.) and Florida Gov. Rick Scott have paid him personal visits this year, he noted proudly. “You have to realize, when you start contributing to all these guys, they give you access to meet them and talk about your issues,” said Sabin, who has given away more than $177,000. “They know that I’m a big supporter.”Full Article: Wealthy political donors seize on new latitude to give to unlimited candidates - The Washington Post.
A Minnesota judge has temporarily blocked a Minnesota campaign contribution law in light of an April ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court. United States District Judge Donovan Frank ruled a group of plaintiffs challenging Minnesota’s ban on large-dollar donations from so-called “special sources” has a “substantial likelihood of success on the merits of their claim,” and ruled Minnesota can’t enforce the law as the case works through the judicial system. The special-sources law limits the amount of money candidates can receive from PACs, lobbyists and “large contributors,” individuals who give more than more than half the base contribution limits for state races (the base limits are $4,000 for a gubernatorial candidate and $1,000 for a House race this cycle). Under the law, gubernatorial candidates can only receive $730,200 from these sources, and state House candidates, $12,500. Once a candidate hits that cap, PAC and lobbyist money is banned and individuals are restricted to giving half the base contribution limit.Full Article: Judge halts Minnesota campaign finance law | MinnPost.
Editorials: McCutcheon Restores Power to Congressional Campaigns | Tim Peckinpaugh and Steve Roberts/Roll Call Opinion
Earlier this month, the Supreme Court struck down an aggregate cap on individual contributions to federal candidates, parties and political committees over a two-year election cycle in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission. Certainly, this is an important holding, but this is not Citizens United II. In fact, in as much as Citizens United increased spending opportunities with outside groups, it’s just the opposite. This decision will have a major impact in national political giving by restoring congressional campaigns themselves — as well as the national parties that support them — to renewed importance by which donors of all political persuasions (and particularly wealthy donors) provide support to a slate of preferred candidates. That shift will, in turn, result in a larger portion of political giving by way of transparent, fully disclosed contributions to federal campaign committees and the Members of Congress they support. Essentially finding that the presence of any cap was arbitrary, and building on its previous free speech analysis in Citizens United v. FEC, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. illustrated the underlying faulty logic of the biennial aggregate limit in operation: “If there is no corruption concern in giving nine candidates up to $5,200 each, it is difficult to understand how a tenth candidate can be regarded as corruptible if given $1,801, and all others corruptible if given a dime.”Full Article: McCutcheon Restores Power to Congressional Campaigns | Commentary : Roll Call Opinion.
In the food world, change from the ground up is all well and good. We desperately need cooks, gardeners, farmers and teachers. But we also need legislation. The recently passed and almost uniformly abysmal Farm Bill is a lesson in how legislation affects those of us working to change the chaotic so-called food “system.” Pittances were tossed at supporters of local and organic food, fortunes’ worth of agribusiness subsidies were maintained, and much-needed support for the country’s least well-off was slashed. That’s a Republican-led Congress at work, but when it comes to supporting Big Ag and Big Food, most of the Democratic representatives from states where farm income matters most are not much better: While the majority of Big Ag’s financial support for candidates goes to Republicans, Democrats are close behind. For big-time change on a national scale, we need representatives who put the needs of a sustainable food system and all that goes with it ahead of those of the chemical and processed food manufacturers who are currently running the show.Full Article: Why Care About McCutcheon? - NYTimes.com.
The still fresh McCutcheon v FEC Supreme Court decision, like the January 2010 Citizens United, has again set off the rage of activists and reformers—who call it nothing less than the privatization of government or the end of the republic! Indeed, removing aggregate contribution limits does for individual donors what Citizens United did for corporations years earlier, make it easier to influence elections. Yet, the apocalyptic cries, however comprehensible, are largely misdirected anger and misguided strategy. Since Citizens United, there have been fervent movements to “get money out of politics” from Movement to Amend (to overrule the case by Constitutional Amendment) to Lawrence Lessig’s Rootstrikers petition (to enact tough campaign finance laws and promote a government-funded option). The idea, remove large campaign donations and see saner policies and better government follow, seems plausible enough. But let’s parse the obvious. Citizens United did not cause the predominance of money in American politics; it is but a symptom of it.Full Article: Campaign finance reform would be a wasted effort | openDemocracy.
Minnesota: Campaign Finance Lawsuits In Minnesota And Other States Take Aim At Contribution Limits | Twin Cities Business
Minnesota is the latest front in what has developed into a national fight over federal and state campaign finance laws whose ultimate target may be the laws restricting how much individuals can give to political campaigns. Last week, a group of citizens and lawmakers filed suit [PDF] against one of Minnesota’s campaign finance laws limiting the number of big-dollar donations candidates can receive from so-called “special sources”—political action committees, lobbyists and donors willing to make the biggest legally permissible contributions to campaigns. The law applies only to state elections, as do many of the other campaign finance lawsuits in the works or on the way (federal candidates are regulated by federal law). The lawsuit came just a few weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the overall limit on how much donors can give to federal candidates in an election cycle.Full Article: Campaign Finance Lawsuits In Minnesota And Other States Take Aim At Contribution Limits.
Many analysts have written a lot about the decision, with a natural focus on its direct implications for campaigns. Those are huge and important. But they are, I believe, overshadowed by the impact of the decision on corruption in America. Here, Rick Hasen and Dahlia Lithwick, two of the best legal analysts in the country, have weighed in, and I want to add my weight. Some have suggested that McCutcheon was not a terribly consequential decision—that it did not really end individual-contribution limits, that it was a minor adjustment post-Citizens United. Others have said that it may have a silver lining: more money to parties, more of the money disclosed. I disagree on both counts. Justice Stephen Breyer’s penetrating dissent to the decision pointed out the many methods that campaigns, parties, and their lawyers would use to launder huge contributions in ways that would make a mockery of individual limits. Chief Justice John Roberts pooh-poohed them as fanciful. And, of course, they started to emerge the day after the decision. As for disclosure, the huge amounts that will now flow in through political parties will be channeled through joint committees, state and local party committees, and others in complex ways that will make real disclosure immensely difficult, if not impossible.Full Article: McCutcheon and the New Banana Republic - Norm Ornstein - The Atlantic.
Political parties, election lawyers and some donors are racing to capitalize on the Supreme Court’s recent decision striking down the overall limits on what wealthy contributors can give to candidates, parties and political action committees. National Republican officials recently launched the Republican Victory Fund, a new campaign vehicle that will allow a single donor to contribute nearly $100,000 to be split among the Republican National Committee and the two GOP campaign committees working on House and Senate races. The goal of the joint fundraising plan is to “maximize our donations to help candidates win in November,” Kirsten Kukowski, a Republican National Committee spokeswoman, said in an e-mail. The Supreme Court’s decision maintained limits on how much an individual can give to one party or candidate but tossed out the aggregate caps that barred a single donor from giving more than $48,600 to all federal candidates and $74,600 to political parties and PACs in the current election cycle.Full Article: Supreme Court ruling sets off race for bigger donations.
The headline about a new Supreme Court opinion rarely tells the whole story. Rather, the detailed reasoning of the ruling often reveals whether a decision is a blockbuster or a dud. When the court writes broadly, it can eventually remake entire industries, government practices or areas of the law. Lawyers and lower courts scrutinize an opinion’s every line and footnote, pouring over the legal reasoning and noting subtle changes from the court’s earlier decisions in the same area. This is why it is fair to call last week’s Supreme Court ruling in the campaign finance case McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission a blockbuster case. In McCutcheon, the court struck down limits on the total amount that an individual could give to federal candidates, parties and certain political committees in an election cycle. The ruling is itself significant, and will channel a great deal of money into the hands of party leaders — opening up new ways for big donors to buy access to elected officials. But just as significant is the court’s reasoning — which could well lead to courts striking down what remain of campaign finance limits, including limits on contributions to individual members of Congress. We could be on our way to politicians accepting multimillion-dollar contributions from a single donor.Full Article: Opening the political money chutes | The Great Debate.
An oligarchy, Webster’s dictionary tells us, is “a form of government in which the ruling power belongs to a few persons.” It’s a shame that the Republican majority on the Supreme Court doesn’t know the difference between an oligarchy and a democratic republic. Yes, I said “the Republican majority,” violating a nicety based on the pretense that when people reach the high court, they forget their party allegiance. We need to stop peddling this fiction. On cases involving the right of Americans to vote and the ability of a very small number of very rich people to exercise unlimited influence on the political process, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and his four allies always side with the wealthy, the powerful and the forces that would advance the political party that put them on the court. The ideological overreach that is wrecking our politics is now also wrecking our jurisprudence. The court’s latest ruling in McCutcheon et al. v. Federal Election Commission should not be seen in isolation. (The “et al.,” by the way, refers to the Republican National Committee.) It is yet another act of judicial usurpation by five justices who treat the elected branches of our government with contempt and precedent as meaningless.Full Article: E.J. Dionne Jr.: Supreme oligarchy - The Washington Post.
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.Full Article: Legal victory for big-money campaign donors to be felt in states, courts | Reuters.
Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the Democratic leader in the House, wasted little time on Thursday blasting the Supreme Court’s latest decision freeing donors to spend more money on campaigns. The founding fathers, Ms. Pelosi said at a news conference on Thursday morning, had fought for “a government of the many, not a government of the money.” Democrats, she said, will not “unilaterally disarm.” Indeed, her fund-raisers had already begun to exploit the new ruling. That morning, Ms. Pelosi’s political team began asking donors for tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of additional contributions permitted by the decision, while circulating a legal memorandum to donors who had questions about the new rules, according to Pelosi supporters.Full Article: Ruling Spurs Rush for Cash in Both Parties - NYTimes.com.
Republican officials and their allies, reviewing Wednesday’s Supreme Court ruling on campaign finance, say they now have ammunition for additional challenges to restrictions on political contributions and may press to strike down all limits on donations to candidates and political parties. Motivated by the ruling in their favor, GOP lawyers and conservative advocates are discussing whether to bring lawsuits that would seek to permit companies and labor unions to donate directly to candidates for Congress and the White House; allow the Republican and Democratic parties to accept unlimited donations; and raise the current $10,000 cap on yearly donations to state political parties. “The political parties are going to take a hard look at some of the more extreme provisions of [the campaign-finance rules] to see if those provisions can withstand review” by the court, said Bobby Burchfield, a longtime GOP campaign-finance lawyer.Full Article: Republicans See Opening to Ask Court to Void More Campaign Limits - WSJ.com.
As Senator Mitch McConnell, an outspoken opponent of regulating campaign spending, has conceded, trying to put limits on political donations is not easy. In McConnell’s words, it’s “like putting a rock on Jell-O. It oozes out some other place.” But if it was difficult before the Supreme Court’s decision this week in McCutcheon v.FEC, it is likely to be impossible now. It was precisely to address the possibility that wealthy people might try to circumvent restrictions on political contributions that Congress not only limited how much money individuals can directly give to political candidates, but also capped the total amount they can donate to all candidates in any election cycle. The Court’s most recent decision, by invalidating all aggregate limits on donations, has vastly increased the amount of Jell-O that campaign finance laws now must contend with. And still more disturbingly, the decision’s rationale invites further challenges to Congressional limits on campaign spending. When this Court gets through, there may be no rock left at all—only Jell-O.Full Article: One Dollar, One Vote by David Cole | NYRblog | The New York Review of Books.
There is more than one way to demolish a wall, physical or legal. Go at it with a bulldozer, or weaken its foundations and await the collapse. When it comes to undermining the structure of modern campaign finance law, Chief Justice John Roberts has done it both ways. The 2010 ruling in the Citizens United case, which Roberts joined, was a judicial bulldozer, willy-nilly toppling precedents that had restricted corporate spending on elections. But the chief justice prefers a cannier jurisprudence, less in-your-face but perhaps just as destructive. Wednesday’s ruling in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, invalidating limits on the overall amount of donations an individual can give to federal candidates and committees, illustrated that insidiously effective approach.Full Article: Ruth Marcus: The real danger behind the ‘McCutcheon’ ruling - The Washington Post.
The sweeping language and logic of Wednesday’s Supreme Court decision on campaign finance may imperil other legal restrictions on money in politics. The 5-to-4 decision, which struck down overall limits on contributions by individuals to candidates and parties, was the latest in a series of campaign finance decisions from the court led by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. that took an expansive view of First Amendment rights and a narrow one of political corruption. According to experts in election law, there is no reason to think that the march toward deregulating election spending will stop with the ruling in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission. “Those who support limits see the court right now as the T. Rex from ‘Jurassic Park,’” said Justin Levitt, a law professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. “What’s next? ‘Just don’t move. He can’t see us if we don’t move.’” For now, federal law bars corporations from making contributions to candidates, though they can spend what they like independently to support or oppose candidates. Contributions from individuals to candidates are capped at $2,600 per election. Individual contributions to political parties are capped, too. Public financing of elections is allowed.Full Article: Ruling Hints More Campaign Finance Dominoes May Fall - NYTimes.com.
National: Supreme Court Strikes Down Aggregate Limits on Federal Campaign Contributions | New York Times
The Supreme Court on Wednesday issued a major campaign finance decision, striking down limits on federal campaign contributions for the first time. The ruling, issued near the start of a campaign season, will change and most likely increase the role money plays in American politics. The decision, by a 5-to-4 vote along ideological lines, was a sequel of sorts to Citizens United, the 2010 decision that struck down limits on independent campaign spending by corporations and unions. But that ruling did nothing to disturb the other main form of campaign finance regulation: caps on direct contributions to candidates and political parties. Wednesday’s decision in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, No. 12-536, addressed that second kind of regulation.Full Article: Supreme Court Strikes Down Aggregate Limits on Federal Campaign Contributions - NYTimes.com.