Okay, I have been living under a rock lately. I haven't seen or heard anything about McCutcheon v FEC. My bad. I will try to remedy this by writing the definitive McCutcheon diary.
Hell, I didn't even know about 99 Rise's Noah Kai Newkirk interrupting arguments before the Supreme Court to bring attention to the case.
And, this is the good part, that he got video of it.
Follow below the Orange Squigglies of Campaign Finance Litigation as I attempt to unravel some of this. As always, beware of this diarist's fallibility. I hate to admit it but I have been wrong before ...
What Did Newkirk Say Exactly?
"I rise on behalf of the vast majority of the American people who believe that money is not speech and corporations are not people and our democracy should not be for sale to the highest bidder. Overturn Citizens United. Keep the cap in McCutcheon. The people demand democracy."
-- Newkirk's outburst
What's At Stake Here?
Spoiler alert: It Ain't Good.
At issue in McCutcheon are aggregate contribution limits — the amount one contributor can give in federal elections to all candidates, political parties, and PACs, combined. Under these limits, no donor can give more than $48,600 to all candidates and $74,600 to parties and PACs in one federal election cycle (two years).This is how I read it. McCutcheon, along with the RNC, wants to eliminate any limitation on the total amount that a donor can give to anyone and everyone during an election cycle. To my mind, this gets to the very heart of campaign contribution limits. The Court could set a new limit but my guess is that it is likely to rule out any limit.
The Brennan Center warns:
McCutcheon threatens to exponentially worsen the political spending arms race — and to create risks of government corruption unlike anything the country has seen since the Gilded Age ... one politician could use joint fundraising committees to directly solicit more than $3.5 million from a single donor in an election cycle. That’s more than 70 times the median annual family income in America.
Don't Listen to Me, Listen to Someone Who Co-Authored an Amicus Brief
Salon published excerpts of an interview with Lioz yesterday.
"So the worst case-scenario is to jeopardize contribution limits generally, which would be a radical departure from four decades of campaign finance law, where the Court has been very clear again and again that the legislative branch has the discretion to set reasonable contribution limits and make sure that the integrity of our democracy is not threatened."Got that? Radical departure. Just so you know what to call it when the Court hands down a ruling. If SCOTUS rules for the FEC, there is your talking point. If SCOTUS rules for McCutcheon, there is your battle cry.
Here is an interesting point raised by Lioz. Early money is more powerful than late money. Politicians already have to prove they can earn before they can run seriously. Eliminate aggregate limits and we might as well close up shop, forget about primaries and caucuses and learn to love our new corporate overlords.
"The contributions that large donors can make to candidates often take place early in the election cycle, in the primary campaigns, or even when people are deciding whether to run for office in the first place… Big money acts as a filter, determining who runs and who wins…Lioz sums it up like this ...
In that very important way, [those] kinds of big checks to candidates have a more profound effect on the system as a whole than outside spending. And so therefore it is reasonable there be greater protection against those kinds of big checks to candidates."
"And so the concept of preventing for-profit corporations from purchasing political power by intervening directly into elections has everything to do with how we as society want to balance the relationship between ourselves as political equals and separately as economic players."
Who the Heck is McCutcheon Anyway?
You get three guesses. I'll give you a minute ...
Or, as the National Journal calls him ...
a businessman, engineer, political donor, and First Amendment advocate from AlabamaYanno, six of one ...
Oh, he's an
opportunist, er author, too. His e-book Outsider Inside: The Supreme Court is poised to go live from his website within two days of the Court handing down a decision in the case.
Did I mention that the RNC has joined McCutcheon in his suit? I'll give you another minute to pick your chin up off the ground.
And, this (hold your nose if you follow the link)...
McCutcheon describes all the attention in positive terms and said he wants to pursue free speech more, possibly working with the Coolidge-Reagan Foundation. Asked whether he'll seek a suit to end individual limits, he laughed.
"I think the chances an individual could do two Supreme Court cases in a lifetime … " he said, but shifted gears mid-sentence. "I need some time off."
But Wait! Meet His Attorney!!!
According to USA Today, Backer is "on a campaign-finance crusade." Backer wants campaigns to be able to accept contributions in bitcoin. He also wants donors to some Tea Party affiliated PACs to remain anonymous.
"A lot of Dan's ideas aren't successful commercially, but I admire the effort," McCutcheon said in a telephone interview.
Backer credits his family's immigration from the Soviet Union as the basis for his defense of free speech. He says that the family instilled "keen sense of what life was like without your First Amendment right to speak."
Remember This Guy?
I will close with these words ...
“We know now that Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob.”FDR in 1936