‘Son of Citizens United’ in the Supreme Court

Posted by AzBlueMeanie:

The first Monday in October marks the opening of the 2013-2014 Term of the U.S. Supreme Court. We are a week away from the Court hearing oral arguments in "Son of Citizens United," McCutcheon v. FEC, a challenge to the overall contribution
limits for individual donors to candidates and parties.

Political scientist Norm Ornstein writes at The Atlantic, If You Thought Citizens United Was Bad, Wait for This Supreme Court Case:

On October 8, the Court is going to take up the next big campaign finance case, McCutcheon v. FEC,
a challenge to the overall contribution limits for individual donors to
candidates and parties, limits that were institutionalized in the Buckley v. Valeo decision in 1976 that undergirds Court jurisprudence on campaign finance.

McCutcheon refers to Shaun McCutcheon, who has given a lot of money
to Republicans and joined with the Republican National Committee to
bring the suit. Their argument starts with the idea that Citizens United’s
reasoning — that limits on independent spending by corporations
violated the First Amendment — should also apply to limits on what
individuals can contribute, in the aggregate, to candidates and parties
.
Undergirding the argument is the idea that since the Citizens United
ruling, parties and candidates have been put at a disadvantage compared
with corporations, other groups, and individuals who are allowed to
flood political campaigns with money through independent expenditures.
Now, the argument goes, we need to compensate by freeing up the parties
and candidates to raise more money
.

McCutcheon does not directly challenge the limits on individual
contributions to individual candidates and parties, just the overall
limits per cycle on what individuals can contribute to candidates and
parties. As such, it can seem more reasonable on the surface: If I can
only give $2,500 to any candidate, why shouldn’t I be able to give
$2,500 to as many candidates as I want? Right now, individuals are
limited in this election cycle to contributing $48,600 to all federal
candidates and $74,600 to party committees and PACs.

But here is the brutal reality if the Court agrees with McCutcheon:
Presidential candidates, House and Senate party leaders, and individual
members of Congress could then form joint fundraising committees with
national and state party committees and leverage contributions from
individuals into huge sums to support their campaigns — maximums of more
than $1 million for individual presidential candidates, more than $3.5
million for committees formed by congressional leaders, and nearly
$200,000 for individual congressional candidates.
We know, based on past
experience, that presidential candidates, congressional leaders, and
candidates would quickly spring into action to create the maximum number
of joint fundraising committees and maximize the number of $3 million
donors — and, of course, every candidate and office holder would know
who was ponying up the amounts.

* * *

Justice Anthony Kennedy, in his Citizens United opinion, made
the astonishing assertion that unlimited sums spent “independently” of
candidates and parties by corporations could not possibly have a
corrupting influence. But Citizens United went out of its way
not to make the same claim for contributions to candidates and parties.
The corruption standard for limits on individual contributions
undergirds Buckley and every major campaign finance decision since. Ruling in favor of McCutcheon would knock the pins out from Buckley and set us down a path to obliteration of all remaining campaign-reform limits.

* * *

[Citizens United] effectively discarded decades of established law, jurisprudence, and
practice over the appropriate role of corporations and unions in
campaigns.

* * *

McCutcheon will tell us soon enough whether Citizens United
was a one-time occurrence or part of a broader, surreptitious plan to
demolish the long-standing campaign finance regime and create a Wild
West in politics, done in a few large incremental steps
. McCutcheon
would be step two. If it happens, expect steps three and four, which
would eliminate all contribution limits and allow corporations to give
directly to candidates and parties
. And then brace yourselves for a
political system that will make the Gilded Age look like the a golden
era of clean politics.

The Washington Post reported, The next Citizens United could affect campaign spending in the states:

At the federal level only a small group — 646 individuals — bumped up
against that aggregate limit during the 2012 election cycle, according
to The Center for Responsive Politics’ Open Secrets blog. But spending limits in a handful of states are lower, meaning that if they fall money could come flowing in.

While McCutcheon only affects the federal limit, experts are watching it
closely and many on both sides believe the state limits either won’t
survive or would become very vulnerable if the federal cap is nullified
.

You can be certain that the Evil Empire's Death Star, the Goldwater Institute, has already plotted out its legal strategy to do away with any campaign finance limits in Arizona, and is working with its Tea-Publican allies in the Arizona Legislature on a legislative strategy.

You can read a detailed Background Memo on McCutcheon v. FEC from The Campaign Legal Center Here.

People For The American Way has assembled a toolkit to help activists raise awareness of McCutcheon and rally for reforms that can solve our growing money-in-politics problem.

Check it out now at www.pfaw.org/McCutcheon.

Use the toolkit to:

  • Learn more about the case, the issues at stake and how to talk about them to your community;
  • Write a “Letter To the Editor” of your local newspaper;
  • Attend rallies and lobby events taking place both in Washington, DC and across the country on the day of the oral arguments;
  • Amplify #McCutcheon via social media tools;
  • And more!

Click here to read and use the toolkit now!

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