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Supremes Could Decide Sky's the Limit for Campaign Donations

PHOTO: The next big "money in politics" decision is expected soon from the U.S. Supreme Court. McCutcheon v. FEC would lift limits on numbers of candidates for federal office that could receive contributions from a single donor. Photo credit: iStockphoto.com.
PHOTO: The next big "money in politics" decision is expected soon from the U.S. Supreme Court. McCutcheon v. FEC would lift limits on numbers of candidates for federal office that could receive contributions from a single donor. Photo credit: iStockphoto.com.
February 24, 2014

WASHINGTON - Another major Supreme Court decision on campaign finance could come this week. In the case, McCutcheon vs. the Federal Elections Commission, an Alabama businessman says his First Amendment rights are being violated when he can't give $2600 donations to as many parties and candidates for federal office as he wants. Many groups working to "get money out of politics" hope the high court rules against McCutcheon. Others, including Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell and the libertarian Cato Institute, favor an end to all restrictions on political donations.

Trevor Burrus, research fellow at Cato's Center for Constitutional Studies, explained that group's position.

"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," he asserted. "It's not a First Amendment concern that there are people out there who speak louder than other people and have more influence."

Burrus said that all the time politicians have to devote to fundraising keeps them from doing their jobs. He'd like to see an end to all limits on donations to candidates, parties and political action committees.

Efficient as it might be for a very few donors to fund much larger portions of campaigns, according to Emma Boorboor, democracy associate with the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, the current limit of $123,000 "is plenty" already.

"This is, you know, almost double the median family income, so it's already quite high," she said. "But then, absent this limit, 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 support is building to keep limits in place, from labor, faith, environmental and other groups.

"So, the more that special interests and corporations are able to spend money to influence the outcome of elections, the harder it's going to be to make progress on the issues that people really care about," she warned.

Greg Stotelmyer , Public News Service - KY