Thursday, April 3, 2014

Supreme Court does away with limit on how much individuals can give candidates and political parties

Supreme Court ruling gives small number of wealthy donors new ways to drive campaigns
By Matea Gold
April 3, 2014

An elite class of wealthy donors who have gained mounting influence in campaigns now has the ability to exert even greater sway. A Supreme Court decision Wednesday does away with an overall limit on how much individuals can give candidates and political parties.

This opens the door even wider for a narrow universe of donors to expand their giving by writing single checksfor as much as $3.6 million that could flow directly to candidate and party committees. That development gave new influence to billionaires such as conservative industrialists Charles and David Koch and liberal former hedge-fund manager Tom Steyer, who are expected to spend tens of millions of dollars this year.

“The Supreme Court is turning our representative system of government into a sandbox for millionaires and billionaires,” said Fred Wertheimer, president of Democracy 21, a group that advocates for reducing the role of big money in politics.

If the overall limits had been lifted for the 2012 campaign, about 1,200 wealthy donors who hit or came close to the limit on giving to candidates and party committees could have poured an additional $304 million into federal political committees, according to an analysis by the liberal groups Demos and U.S. That nearly equals the $313 million that 4 million small donors gave to the campaigns of President Obama and GOP challenger Mitt Romney that cycle.