The rich are poised to have even more influence in the upcoming midterm elections in light of the Supreme Court ruling on Wednesday that struck down aggregate campaign contribution limits.
“Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., writing for four justices in the controlling opinion, said the overall limits could not survive First Amendment scrutiny. “There is no right in our democracy more basic,” he wrote, “than the right to participate in electing our political leaders.”
In a dissent from the bench, Justice Stephen G. Breyer called the majority opinion a disturbing development that raised the overall contribution ceiling to “the number infinity.”
“If the court in Citizens United opened a door,” he said, “today’s decision may well open a floodgate.”
Such oral dissents are rare, and they signal deep disagreements. But both Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Breyer also noted from the bench that the other side’s arguments were well presented.
Wednesday’s decision did not affect familiar base limits on contributions from individuals to candidates, currently $2,600 per candidate in primary and general elections. But it said that overall limits of $48,600 by individuals every two years for contributions to all federal candidates violated the First Amendment, as did separate aggregate limits on contributions to political party committees, currently $74,600.
In his written opinion, Justice Breyer said Wednesday’s decision would allow “a single individual to contribute millions of dollars to a political party or to a candidate’s campaign.” He was joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.”
Basically, this means that it will become harder for lower and middle income individuals to have an impact in elections. And the immediate impact of this decision is that Republican candidates will benefit from this more than Democratic candidates since Republicans rely on smaller groups of wealthy donors. The majority of the court is validating the idea of that money equals speech in the context of the First Amendment.
To combat the effects of this Supreme Court ruling, some groups are looking at creating publicly-financed congressional campaigns. The folks at the Progressive Change Campaign Committee already have a petition going asking people to express support for the Government by the People Act, H.R. 20.