As Politico pointed out, “Citizens United v. FEC, the Supreme Court’s monumental 2010 decision, cleared the way for unlimited spending on political ads by corporations and unions, and a subsequent lower court decision allowed individuals to donate unlimited sums to super PACs. The decisions are what allowed Hollywood mogul Jeffrey Katzenberg to donate $3 million to a super PAC supporting President Barack Obama in 2012 and also empowered the Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity to spend millions on ads directly opposing Obama’s reelection.” Well, that isn’t even right. The First Amendment prohibits the government from limiting what these people and entities can spend.
What the ruling says is that the caps on individuals giving more than $48,600 in a two-year cycle directly to federal candidates and the aggregate limits on contributions to political party committees, which were previously $74,600, violated the Constitution. Does anyone think those caps restrained any billionaire, corporation or union from essentially spending as much money as they wanted? If anything the ruling affects where the money is spent, making it easier to give via parties or directly to candidates where the money is disclosed than through third party groups where no disclosure is required. (If given to third-party groups, spending theoretically cannot be coordinated.) That, if anything, is an improvement in the system if you are concerned with corruption and transparency.
Another plus is that it helps revive state parties, which can also play a counterweight against single-interest groups. The Post explains, “State parties had been starved by the aggregate limits. Donors, especially major givers, like to give to the politically sexier causes. And that tends to be federal candidates and national party committees. By the time that giving was done, donors were typically at or close to their $74,600 giving limit to all political action and party committees. Now, under McCutcheon, a donor could, theoretically, give the federal limit of $10,000 to every single one of the 50 state parties.”
If the campaign reformers really cared about transparency and corruption, the left would be in favor of lifting all caps to the political parties. It would all be above board and fully reportable. Parties would be restored to their historic role as groomers of candidates and watchdogs to sift out the most disagreeable and extreme elements in the party. There is no way short of a Constitutional Amendment to end independent expenditures, but it’s a good idea to redirect money back to parties so they can exercise their role as a clearinghouse. It is only then that some of the things the left complains about like “polarization,” “special interest politics” and “secret money” can be addressed. But maybe the left simply wants to holler “Koch brothers!” If that is the best argument they have in 2014, they should go for it.
The caterwauling from the media and Democrats (I repeat myself) is a little too much to bear. They’ve got their billionaires; the conservatives have theirs. The only difference is liberals hypocritically attack the other guys’ billionaires as bringing about the end of democracy as we know it. The left is up to their armpits in third party money, union money, billionaire money and SuperPAC money. As a Capitol Hill Republican remarked, “They have become what they once decried.”