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Supreme Court Campaign Donation Decision Expected

PHOTO: The U.S. Supreme Court could rule this week on a campaign finance case that could end limits on the number of candidates for federal office that a donor could support. Photo credit: Microsoft Images
PHOTO: The U.S. Supreme Court could rule this week on a campaign finance case that could end limits on the number of candidates for federal office that a donor could support. Photo credit: Microsoft Images
February 24, 2014

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - A decision about campaign donations and "free speech" is expected soon from the U.S. Supreme Court in a case that could end donation limits from individuals to federal candidates and their parties.

The current limit is $123,000, and those working to "get money out of politics" say that's roughly twice the family median income. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and the libertarian Cato Institute favor an end to all restrictions on political donations.

"I do not think the danger of protecting the voice of the 'little guy' is something the federal government, or any government, should be involved in," said Trevor Burrus, a research fellow at Cato's Center for Constitutional Studies. "It's not a First Amendment concern that there are people out there who speak louder than other people and have more influence."

Critics argue that removing all donation limits amounts to selling elected offices to the highest bidder. West Virginia lawmakers are considering a separate bill that would require corporations to disclose how much they've spent to influence state elections. House Bill 4463 is up before the full House in the coming days.

In the case before the high court, McCutcheon vs. the Federal Elections Commission, an Alabama businessman says his First Amendment rights are violated when he can't give a $2,600 donation to as many parties and candidates for federal office as he wants.

Emma Boorboor, a democracy associate for the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, countered that a current overall donation limit that tops $100,000 is "plenty" already.

"Absent this limit," she said, "one wealthy donor would be permitted to contribute more than $3.5 million to a single party's candidates and party committees in one election cycle."

Boorboor said she hopes the court rules against McCutcheon. A decision could come this week.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - WV