Supreme Court’s new free speech gift is neither free nor a gift for some big donors

Some big campaign donors are not all that grateful for the new gift of free speech they got from the U.S. Supreme Court Wednesday.

Instead, they fear that already heavy demands made on them by politicians for money will get heavier still.

Citing the First Amendment, the court removed the ceiling on overall campaign contributions imposed by federal law. As the Post’s Robert Barnes wrote:

Wednesday’s decision concerns a restriction that few Americans knew about and fewer could afford to violate — a limit on the total amount of money an individual can contribute in a two-year period to candidates and political committees. The limits capped at $48,600 the amount an individual could spend on contributions to candidates, plus $74,600 total on contributions to political parties and committees.

That might be fine for billionaires like Sheldon Adelson and George Soros, but for less activist just plain millionaire givers, it could spell trouble.

Reports the Wall Street Journal:

“This will mean my phone lines will light up,” said Rick Hohlt, a longtime Republican donor and Washington lobbyist. Mr. Hohlt and his wife regularly donate the maximum amount allowed by law to Republican causes.

“Big donors fear shakedown after decision,” was the headline in Politico.

Anna Palmer writes:

The biggest Washington donors used to have a great excuse to keep their wallets closed when fundraisers came knocking: Sorry, I’m maxed out…..“I’m horrified, planning to de-list my phone number and destroy my email address,” said Ken Kies, who, along with his wife, has bumped up against the federal political contribution limits. “What I was really hoping for is a ban on lobbyists making contributions entirely.”

“I’m poor again as a result,” joked Tony Podesta, a top lobbyist and major donor who is among the small number of K-Streeters who contribute nearly the maximum amount to candidates each election cycle. “The fundraising consultants are the only winner in today’s decision.”

 

And from the Post’s Matea Gold:

Although the ruling may amplify the influence of deep-pocketed donors, it was not welcome news for many of those who are asked to write the checks.

“It’s much more of a curse than a liberation,” said Wade Randlett, [a major Democratic fundraiser in California,]who noted that this is the point in the election cycle when many major contributors have reached their limit. “The sound you heard was the collective groan of all cycle-maxed donors.”

No longer will donors be able to put off political solicitations by saying, “I can’t give, I am watching my aggregate limits,’ ” noted Craig Engle, [a GOP election laweyer.] “Now you don’t have a legal excuse.”

 

 

 

Fred Barbash, the editor of Morning Mix, is a former National Editor and London Bureau Chief for the Washington Post.
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