Why McCutcheon is good news for Republicans

April 3, 2014

In ending aggregate donation limits for individual contributors, the Supreme Court may have given Republicans an edge in the unending race for campaign cash.


It's all about the Benjamins, baby.

Here's why. According to a Sunlight Foundation analysis of the top 1,000 donors in the 2012 election -- the people who, theoretically, have the money and the wherewithal to drop oodles of cash into future races -- nearly two thirds of them give exclusively or heavily to Republican causes. Writes Sunlight's Lee Drutman:

Of the 1,000 top donors, 658 gave more to Republicans, and 360 gave more to Democrats (two broke even). In other words, almost two-thirds are Republican-leaning donors. Or put another way, that’s 1.83 Republican top donors for every one Democratic donor....Among the 886 top donors giving 90 percent of their money to one party, 580 (65.4 percent) gave primarily to Republicans, while 326 (36.8 percent) gave primarily to Democrats, which is roughly similar to the entire top 1000.

This chart tells that story.



It's worth remembering that the number of donors who bumped up against the aggregate limits the McCutcheon ruling did away with was quite small in 2012. Here's GovBeat's Niraj Chokshi explaining:

Only 591 donors in the entire country gave the maximum of $46,200 to federal candidates in 2012, according to data from Center for Responsive Politics. Even fewer individuals hit the cap in the nine states that had aggregate limits in the 2010 and 2012 elections, according to the  National Institute on Money in State Politics.

“During the 2012 elections, nine donors in two states gave the maximum amount allowed by state’s aggregate limit,” the authors of an October Institute report wrote. “The 2010 elections saw 159 donors in four states gave the maximum aggregate limit.”

That means the pool of individuals bumping against the cap is well below 1,000, even if there were no overlap among those who hit state limits in 2010 and 2012 and those who hit federal limits in 2012.

The Sunlight Foundation study notes that the vast majority of these donations went to super PACS (79 percent) while a relative paucity went to party committees (11.4 percent ) and candidates (5.8 percent).  It's impossible to know whether, with aggregate limits removed, more of that money will flow to party committees/candidates but it seems likely more -- if not a majority -- of the donations will go that way. It's also tough to figure whether there exists a broader groups of major Democratic donors who were cowed by the aggregate limits but now will come out of the woodwork to cut millions of dollars worth of checks to candidate.

From what we know of the 2012 election,however, the Republican universe post-McCutcheon is larger than the Democratic one. And that should translate into more money for Republican candidates, party committees and state parties.

Chris Cillizza writes “The Fix,” a politics blog for the Washington Post. He also covers the White House.
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