Well, so much for aggregate campaign finance limits.
In a separate supporting opinion Justice Clarence Thomas agreed but went further calling for an end to all campaign finance reform.
The 5-4 ruling in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission was penned by Chief Justice John Roberts and joined by justices Anthony Kennedy, Samuel Alito and Antonin Scalia. The decision relies heavily on the assertion in the 2010 Citizens United ruling that influence and access are not a corruption concern.
Advocates of campaign limits were not pleased:
The victory for the Alabama businessman and major Republican Party donor Shaun McCutcheon, who was joined by the Republican National Committee in his challenge, means that a single donor will soon be able to contribute millions of hard dollars -- in limited contributions -- to political parties, candidates and political action committees.
"With the ruling, we continue to chip away at the long entrenched status quo from the grassroots -- a status quo that has kept challengers, better ideas, and new entrants to the political arena mostly locked out," McCutcheon said in a statement. "Ensuring that citizens are able to contribute to multiple candidates or causes who share their views only provides further support to a system in which 'We the People' hold the ultimate reins of power."
"With its decision today in McCutcheon, the Supreme Court majority continued on its march to destroy the nation's campaign finance laws, which were enacted to prevent corruption and protect the integrity of our democracy," Democracy 21 president Fred Wertheimer said in a statement.(Update) This ruling only applies to the aggregate limits in the House and Senate not to the individual limits which are still in place. A Chicago Tribune article in an update goes into more detail. I will put detailed paragraphs from other newspapers in the updates now that we have the headlines.
9:29 AM PT: Correction to title adding word aggregate. Individual caps were left in place. Sorry. I have a Chicago Tribute article that makes this more clear I am adding now.
In a 5-4 decision, the court’s conservative majority struck down Watergate-era aggregate limits that barred political donors from giving more than $123,000 a year in total to candidates running for seats in the House of Representatives or Senate.
The ruling leaves in place base limits on how much a donor can give individual candidates and laws that require candidates, parties and political action committees to disclose information about donors.
Chief Justice John Roberts, writing on behalf of the court, said the justices did not reach the question of whether to overturn a key 1976 ruling, called Buckley v. Valeo, which upheld limits on campaign finance donations while also describing how courts should analyze such regulations. Justice Clarence Thomas, who voted with Roberts, said the court had gone further than the chief justice claimed.
Roberts said the previous restriction violated free speech rights. I'm going to get other newspaper reports so we can get more details now that these have given us the headlines.
9:54 AM PT: Please check out my April Fools post about the Koch brothers imitating Markos' "Crashing the Gates" with Crashing the Estates and setting up The Daily Kochs website for billionaires to replace democracy with oligarchy - it's a real chuckler.