McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission Decision Changes Campaign Finance Laws

The Supreme Court struck down the federal law on campaign contributions in the case, McCutcheon vs. Federal Election Commission. Only leaving a cap on donations to a single candidate on April 2nd.

Dr. Jospeh Patten, Chair of the Political Science and Sociology Department said that the case, removed the $123,000 cap on campaign contributions for individuals and corporations.

According to Patten, “That includes contributions to candidate Political Action Committee (PACs) and parties. What the decision did is removed the cap so now an individual can contribute $3.5 million if they spread it to the PACs party and candidate. Similar way to the other case. its trending toward where the court that takes away primary of general give to all my members of Congress to PACs.”

Patten said in regards to the cap of $2,600 for single candidate donations, “It’s trending to where it will be overturned. Will it actually happen? We shall see. Although this is a very controversial ruling among the people it had nowhere near the same reaction as Citizen vs. United case.”

Patten explains that, “The Citizen United case was more provocative in getting public backlash. This current case is another case about big money having a voice but I don’t think it will have the same kind reaction from the public.”

Professor Gregory Bordelon,  lecturer of political science, whom has done research on the background of this case said, “The problem is, campaign finance has been classified as protected speech (under the First Amendment) by the U.S. Supreme Court ever since Buckley v. Valeo (1976) and money, like water, will always find its way to where it needs to go.”

Also, the McCutcheon case is not the first challenge to the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (BCRA).

“Sen. Mitch McConnell from Kentucky, the current minority leader in the U.S. Senate, challenged the soft money ban and political advertising components of the BCRA almost immediately after the law went into effect – McConnell v. FEC (2003) and those provisions were narrowly upheld in this face of the Senator’s challenge. But the political advertising components (particularly in time frames before elections) slowly started to get eaten away by the Supreme Court as unconstitutional in cases such as FEC v. Wisconsin Right to Life (2007) and of course, most famously, in Citizens United v. FEC (2010), the latter upholding disclosure requirements of the BCRA but controversially holding that corporate entities can expend funds in campaigns,” according to Bordelon.

Patten said, “Laws and campaign finance have evolved significantly since the creation in the 1970s. The original purpose for the laws came after Watergate. They are primarily focused on keeping the fat cats from controlling elections. That’s why campaign laws place limits on the contributions and the individuals who can give to a candidate. In 2010, the Citizens United decision overturned 100 years of law that banned corporate money from election. The Supreme Court said that corporations have speech rights and that they could spend as much as they want provided given expenditure and long as they stayed within reasonable limits.”

William Carrigan, a senior political science major, said, “The Supreme Court’s basis of both Citizens United v. FEC and McCutcheon v. FEC is that spending money for political purposes is a right protected by the First Amendment, and can therefore not be limited by Congress. In fact, in the Constitution, the Founding Fathers only refer to the United States as a ‘republic.’  A ‘republic,’ as the Founding Fathers defined it, is a ‘representative democracy’ in which the masses (democracy) elect individuals (The House of Representatives) to represent them on their behalf.  Thus, the most definitive component of the United States republic is this ‘representative democracy’ in which the masses elect people to represent them.”

Dr. Steven Pressman, professor of economics, said, “The danger I see is that it increases the ability of the extremely wealthy to influence the outcome of elections and the votes of politicians who do get elected to office (and will want financial support from wealthy donors in re-election efforts.)”

Pressman continued with explaining what would happen to the middle class with this current case result, “Political scientists found that the policy preferences of the extremely wealthy tend to differ from that of average citizens. First, they favor policies (like cuts in the top income tax rate) that benefit them but that ultimately hurt the middle class because it leads to reduced spending on important programs (like government support of education) that broadly benefit the entire population. Second, the extremely wealthy are more likely to oppose policies to create jobs during a recession through deficit spending. The result here will be higher unemployment, more suffering, and a smaller middle class in the U.S.”

Carrigan said, “When wealthy individuals have the ability to donate unlimited funds, this allows them to become more represented than those who cannot afford to do so. This fundamentally alters the very essence of what a ‘republic’ is to something very different from what the Founding Fathers had in mind.  As James Madison wrote in the Federalist Papers, ‘The House of Representatives is so constituted as to support in the members an habitual recollection of their dependence on the people and should be dependent upon the people alone.’” The Supreme Court’s opinion in both Citizens United v. FEC and McCutcheon v. FEC are, in my opinion, in direct violation with the Constitution as well as the very definition of a ‘republic.’”

Carrigan said, “Referring to the $2,600 limit those individuals can give to any candidate or committee per election. Although I cannot see this being overturned in the near future, the Supreme Court is relatively unpredictable in these matters.”

Carrigan continued, “I honestly don’t think that this ruling will have huge effect on elections. Prior to the ruling in McCutcheon v. FEC, individuals and corporations already had the right to spend unlimited funds for political purposes. Now, individuals can just donate more money directly to political action committees and campaigns. I do not think that overall spending will increase as a result of this ruling. I think it will increase anyway purely because more organizations are seeing the financial benefit of political investments. I think that while the amount of donations directly to campaigns and political action committees will increase, the amount spend on independent expenditures and lobbying efforts will decrease as a result.  Regardless, I feel that all of this spending is very bad for the overall health of our ‘republic.’”