Donors will now have a wide array of choices in where to spend their political dollars, thanks to the Supreme Court. The 2010 Citizens United decision, combined with lower-court rulings, opened the door to giving unlimited amounts of money to “super PACs” and nonprofit political groups, money that was spent on electing and defeating specific candidates. The court’s McCutcheon decision on Wednesday allows donors to give as much as $3.6 million to joint fund-raising committees set up by the parties, which can be used to benefit individual candidates.David Horsey:
That makes the parties players in the big-money race for the first time, since an individual’s contributions to party committees had been limited to $74,600 per election cycle. But the parties will be competing with the super PACs for those six-figure checks, and the check writers know it. For that kind of money, donors expect something beyond a nice table at a fund-raiser and a photo with a party leader. And the parties, which are controlled by the top lawmakers, are in a position to provide it — tax benefits, special clauses in regulatory bills, spending that helps a particular industry.
America has seen some impressive winning streaks -- the Chicago Bulls with Michael Jordan, the New York Yankees for half the 20thcentury, Tiger Woods until his wife caught him with his putter on the wrong green --– but few can surpass the string of wins being racked up by rich people. And now, thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court’s conservatives, the super-wealthy can take another victory lap. [...] By the presidential campaign in 2020, the role of money in American politics is likely to have returned to the unencumbered condition of the 1890s Gilded Age when rich robber barons could spend freely to buy a compliant Congress that would look after their interests.Much more on this and other top stories below the fold.
The decision in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission pays no heed to how special-interest money corrupts the democratic process and is sure to magnify major donors’ already immense influence over Congress. [...]Don Campell, USA Today:
In his dissenting opinion, Justice Stephen Breyer described how a complex web of allied political committees would allow like-minded donors to write multimillion-dollar checks while staying within Roberts’s legal framework. That dissent, sadly, may now become a road map for donors who would use the McCutcheon case to expand their influence over congressional races.
It's not about Democrats or Republicans. It's about candidates of both parties spending an inordinate amount of time grubbing for money and rewarding those who give it.Adam Liptak at The New York Times:
The next case may arrive soon. At their private conference on Friday, the justices are scheduled to consider whether to hear Iowa Right to Life Committee v. Tooker, No. 13-407, a petition from James Bopp Jr., one of the lawyers on the winning side in the McCutcheon case. It challenges an Iowa law that bans contributions from corporations but allows them from unions. [...]Heather K. Gerken, Wade Gibson and Webb Lyons writing in The Washington Post:
In a good-faith effort to help our flawed campaign-finance system, the Internal Revenue Service ventured into the elections arena and received a thumping so severe you would think Frank Underwood of “House of Cards” had arranged it.Switching topics, Michael Tomasky tears apart Paul Ryan's callous budget plan:
The IRS knew what we all know: “Dark money” — the money spent on elections by anonymous donors — is a problem. And the IRS has jurisdiction over one of the main sources of dark money: 501(c)(4) organizations, such as Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS. These “social welfare” organizations spent more than $250 million in 2012 — roughly a quarter of all campaign spending by outside groups. But unlike political parties, PACs or super PACs, they weren’t required to disclose a single donor. [...]
A cynic might think that’s just as well because dark money will find its way into the system no matter what. As election scholars often note, campaign money is like water; it always finds an outlet. Whenever regulations make it hard for wealthy donors to fund politics, donors find another way. Congress closed the “soft money” loophole for political parties, and money flowed into issue ads and so-called 527 groups. Now, 527s have been displaced by super political action committees and 501(c)(4)s.
Unless and until Congress and the Supreme Court fundamentally change the regulatory environment, proposals like the IRS’s won’t stop the flow of money; they’ll just reroute it. The story of 2016 and 2020 will be the same as in 2012, except with a different set of organizations serving donors’ needs. Given the hydraulics of campaign finance reform, we should focus not on stemming the flow of money but rather on directing it toward greater transparency.
Remind me not to get in a foxhole with Paul Ryan. At the first sign of trouble, he’ll pack up his gunny sack and head for base camp, running into the latrine to hide.The Miami Herald highlights the influence of the NRA in Florida:
Or so I conclude from the budget he released this week. Remember how last year Ryan was reinventing himself as the true friend of “the poors,” as we ironically say in liberal blogland? Aside from being stunned that all those skewed polls turned out to be exactly on the money and he and Mitt Romney lost, he was also, we were told, chagrined and maddened that he came away from the 2012 campaign with a reputation as a pitiless Randian with a hole where his heart used to be.
Marion Hammer, lobbyist supreme for the National Rifle Association, told lawmakers on a Florida Senate committee that if they didn’t allow unlicensed gun owners to carry their weapons after evacuating during an emergency, burglars and looters would get them — “which puts more guns in the hands of criminals, and that poses a greater danger to emergency personnel, law enforcement and military personnel.”And on a final note, Europe is pressing forward on net neutrality:
Five of the nine members of the Military and Veterans Affairs, Space and Domestic Security Committee did as they were told, and voted to approve this misguided exemption for gun owners. Commend the four lawmakers on the losing side, including Sen. Dwight Bullard, D-Miami, and Maria Lorts Sachs, D-Delray Beach, for saying No.
Of course, here’s what Ms. Hammer didn’t say: You support the NRA, lawmakers, and you will continue to have our deep-pocketed backing, too. She didn’t have to. It’s a tragic pact that has made the majority of Floridians less safe, enabled others who are packing to claim they fired because they were afraid — “He threw popcorn at me” — and put Florida on the map as a place to, maybe, avoid.
American government officials and corporate executives are fond of reminding the world that the United States created the Internet. But right now Europe is taking the lead in protecting what makes the Internet great: its openness.
On Thursday, the European Parliament voted for rules that would restrict Internet service providers from blocking or slowing down services like Skype and Netflix on their networks.
These rules, which still need the approval of European governments before they can be enacted, stand in stark contrast to the situation in the United States. Congress has refused to enact strong anti-blocking rules and courts have twice struck down the Federal Communications Commission regulations in this area.