Right Applauds, Left Aghast Over Court's Campaign Finance Ruling

Thursday, 03 Apr 2014 11:43 AM

By John Gizzi

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Reaction from all sides came swiftly almost as soon as the Supreme Court ruled Wednesday in the McCutcheon case that individuals could donate to unlimited numbers of candidates for federal office and political action committees as well as to political parties.

To no one's surprise, conservatives cheered the 5-4 ruling while liberals were almost unanimous in denouncing the decision as providing wealthy Republicans with a greater role in races for Congress and the presidency.

Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, spoke for most conservatives when he told Newsmax: "This is one more step toward dismantling the campaign finance laws that were designed to hurt Republicans and empower labor leaders, who want to be the only players financing candidates for Congress and president.

"It's not the Berlin Wall falling down, but it's close," Norquist said.

In McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, the justices delivered the most far-reaching decision on campaign finance since the Citizens United case of 2010, which paved the way for super PACs to spend unlimited amounts on behalf of candidates if they do so independently.

Dubbed "Citizens United 2.0" in many press outlets, the McCutcheon ruling does not raise the current limit of $2,300 that an individual may donate to a candidate for federal office, but it does end the limit on the aggregate amount a person can spend on candidates, PACs, and parties in a two-year election cycle.

Hans von Spakovsky, former member of the Federal Election Commission and a visiting fellow at the Heritage Foundation, told Newsmax: "This is a terrific decision by the court that upholds the First Amendment and the ability of Americans to participate in the electoral process through both political expression and political association."

Bradley A. Smith, past FEC chairman and head of the Center for Competitive Politics, which promotes campaign finance deregulation, agreed.

"The court's conclusion was common sense," Smith told Newsmax. "The law limited an individual to contributing the legal maximum to just 18 candidates. If the first 18 aren't 'corrupted' by the contribution, why is candidate 19?

"What's remarkable is that four justices of the Supreme Court continue to believe that such overt limitations on political speech are constitutional. Moreover, to reach that conclusion the dissenters relied on a series of preposterous hypotheticals bearing no resemblance to reality. Fortunately, five justices aren't swayed by such nonsense. A good day for freedom — and for competitive campaigns," Smith said.

The polar opposite opinion came from the left-of-center campaign finance watchdog group, Public Campaign Action Fund. Executive Director David Donnelly told reporters: "Given the state of play on money in politics, this is no moderate decision by the Roberts Court. The way campaigns are financed is already extremely unfair to everyday Americans, and today, a slim majority has once again made it worse.

"If there's a silver lining, it's that today's decision makes it crystal clear, and all the more important than ever before, that Congress moves forward on legislation to empower everyday Americans in the political process. This decision underscores the missed opportunity by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in New York this week to pass comprehensive reform of the way our elections are financed."

Another left-of-center group, the MoveOn.org Civic Action, said the McCutcheon ruling "has seriously threatened our democracy by allowing ultra-rich individuals like Shaun McCutcheon and the Koch brothers to effectively buy as many members of Congress as their bank accounts allow."

Speaking for MoveOn.org Civic Action, Executive Director Anna Galland charged that "the Roberts Court has weakened America's democracy and contributed to a system of legalized bribery by allowing big money to swamp the voices of regular Americans and dramatically alter the outcome of elections."

John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.

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