Are political donations a form of freedom of expression?

Posted on April 2, 2014

washington d.c.

In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that private citizens can contribute to as many candidates as they wish in a single election cycle. Contributions to a single candidate are still limited to $5,200.

In McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission (FEC), the high court ruled in favor of Shaun McCutcheona conservative businessman from Alabama.

In a telephone interview, McCutcheon told the State of the Union “I am very pleased to have our First Amendment freedom upheld by the Supreme Court…The Constitution guarantees the very important First Amendment right to be able to promote political ideas and change.”

The Republican National Committee agrees with McCutcheon.

In one declarationPresident Reince Priebus applauds the decision and the RNC’s role in backing McCutcheon:

“I am proud that the RNC has led the way in bringing this case and pleased that the Court has agreed that limits on the number of candidates or committees one person can unconstitutionally support weigh on the essential political activities of the first amendment. When free speech is allowed to flourish, our democracy is stronger.

The FEC, however, expresses concern that unlimited contributions could lead to corruption.

In one declarationthe FEC says, “The Commission is considering the impact of the notice on its existing regulations.”

According to attorney Emily Tisch Sussman, director of campaigns for the Center for American Progress Action Fund, the decision is problematic because the candidates will be less concerned with serving the public and more focused on courting a few wealthy citizens who could fund their campaigns.

Sussamn said: “Mr. McCutcheon’s decision is unfortunate for the American public. He argued that his First Amendment freedom of speech was limited because of overall limits on campaign contributions, when in fact, by removing the limit, he made his voice much louder than the average American. .

Sussman argues that “We the People” really applies to “we the wealthiest”.

“We’re talking about people who can afford to give more than $123,200 a year in federal elections alone.”

According to a Evaluation by the nonpartisan Sunlight Foundation, in the 2012 election, 28% of all disclosed political contributions were given by 31,385 people or, in other words, the “1% of the 1%”. The Sunlight Foundation also determined that most major contributions support Republican campaigns.

McCutcheon told State of the Union that “there are as many wealthy Democrats as there are Republicans, and the private citizen should be able to spend as much money as they want on elections.”