The Supreme Court’s decision Wednesday to do away with two-year caps on the total amount of money individuals can give to candidates or political parties will let rich people channel millions of dollars to a single candidate, liberal justice Stephen Breyer warned in a foreboding dissent.
Taken with the court’s previous decision in Citizens United, which lets corporations give unlimited money to political campaigns, “today’s decision eviscerates our Nation’s campaign finance laws, leaving a remnant incapable of dealing with the grave problems of democratic legitimacy that those laws were intended to solve,” Breyer wrote.
The long-anticipated decision in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission technically does not change the limits on the amount of money people can give to single politicians; it just gets rid of a $US123,000 overall cap that on contributions to candidates and political committees during a two-year election cycle.
But the dissent by Breyer, which liberal justices Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg signed onto, argues that McCutcheon still allows for sneaky ways to let rich people give millions to a single politician.
“It creates a loophole that will allow a single individual to contribute millions of dollars to a political party or a candidate’s campaign,” Breyer writes in his dissent. He added, “The methods for using today’s opinion to evade the law’s individual contribution limits are complex, but they are well known, or will become well known, to party fundraisers.”
Under McCutcheon, donors will be able to give up to $US3.6 million to a single party fundraising committee, which can then channel that money to a single candidate, Breyer warns. The possibility that one person could effectively give millions to one candidate opens the door for significant corruption, he wrote.
“The justification for aggregate contribution restrictions is strongly rooted in the need to assure political integrity and ultimately in the First Amendment itself,” Breyer wrote. “The threat to that integrity posed by the risk of special access and influence remains real.”
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