Democrats bash SCOTUS ruling
By: Seung Min Kim
April 2, 2014 01:02 PM EDT
Democratic lawmakers and campaign finance reform advocates quickly bashed Wednesday’s Supreme Court decision to strike down total limits on individual campaign contributions, warning of future corruption in elections.
Meanwhile, Republicans largely cheered the ruling from the narrowly divided court, which found it unconstitutional to impose caps on the aggregate amounts that one person can donate to campaigns, parties and political action committees.
Calling himself “all for freedom,” Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Wednesday commended the ruling, saying “donors ought to have the freedom to give what they want to give.” And Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who had filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the case, also praised the decision.
(Also on POLITICO: Supreme Court strikes down aggregate campaign giving limits)
“Let me be clear for all those who would criticize the decision: It does not permit one more dime to be given to an individual candidate or a party,” McConnell said Wednesday. “It just respects the constitutional rights of individuals to decide how many to support.”
Senate Democrats, who control the chamber, are already planning to respond. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said he will hold a hearing on the impact of the McCutcheon decision and other rulings from the high court that he says “have eviscerated our campaign finance laws.”
Meanwhile, Maine Sen. Angus King, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, said he introduced legislation intended to make donations more transparent by requiring all contributions of $1,000 or more to be disclosed to the Federal Election Commission within 48 hours. A campaign bill in the House will be introduced by Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas).
New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, the third-ranking Senate Democrat who also chairs the Rules Committee, said the panel will hold hearings on the ruling and that leadership will explore what can be done legislatively. A Constitutional amendment proposed by Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.), which would explicitly give Congress the power to regulate campaign finance for federal races, is a “more attractive” option since the court ruling was made on First Amendment grounds, Schumer said.
“The specific effect of this decision is not that large because we’re already awash in money,” Schumer told reporters Wednesday. “But it shows where the Supreme Court is headed, which is to dismantle other even more significant limits so that any person could write out a check of any size and undisclosed, put it into unlimited numbers of races. And that direction as I said, it would be like the 1890s. We’d go back to the days of the robber barons.“
Responding to the decision, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) invoked his favorite boogeymen: the Koch brothers.
“The Supreme Court today just accentuated what they did on Citizens United, which is a decision that is one of the worst decisions in the history of that court,” Reid said during a press conference on raising the minimum wage. “All it does is take away people’s rights because, as you know, the Koch brothers are trying to buy America.”
Over in the House, Rep. John Larson (D-Conn.) said he plans to introduce legislation that will “fully reverse this latest Supreme Court blunder.” A Democratic aide said the forthcoming bill from Larson and fellow Democratic Reps. David Price of North Carolina and Bob Brady of Pennsylvania will reinstate the aggregate limits for contributions that were in place before Wednesday’s ruling, and the lawmakers plan to circulate a Dear Colleague letter on the measure.
And House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) called for passage of legislation sponsored by Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.) that is meant to amplify small-dollars donations to congressional candidates.
“Our founders risked their lives, their liberty and their sacred honor to create a democracy — a government of the many, not a government of the money,” Pelosi said in a statement. “After misguided and destructive court decisions in McCutcheon and Citizens United, it is clear that Congress must act swiftly to restore fairness to our campaign finance system.”
Current federal law limits the total amount an individual can give to $48,600 for candidates and $74,600 in contributions to PACs and party committees in each two-year cycle. That’s separate from the $2,600 limit on donations to a single candidate and the $32,400 cap on donations to parties.
While Democrats publicly criticized the decision, they were far more positive in private. One top Hill Democrat suggested Democrats had a larger number of donors, and they can now go back and ask these supporters for even more money.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), the author of the landmark 2002 McCain-Feingold law that clamped down on soft-money contributions, said he was “disappointed” by Wednesday’s ruling — calling it the latest move from justices to “dismantle entirely the longstanding structure of campaign finance law.”
“I predict that as a result of recent court decisions, there will be scandals involving corrupt public officials and unlimited, anonymous campaign contributions that will force the system to be reformed once again,” McCain said.