In the short run, yesterday’s much-hyped Supreme Court ruling won’t mean much. Eliminating overall contribution limits will give the party committees and candidates a little extra cash in their pocket, but the campaign finance landscape is largely the same as it was when Wednesday began. It’s what might come next that would fundamentally upend the campaign financing system. The attorneys and experts studying yesterday’s McCutcheon v. FEC ruling suggest it could make vulnerable one of the bedrock rules of the campaign finance system: Caps on individual contributions to parties and candidates.
— McCutheon is significant, attorneys say, because it’s one of the first cases to focus on contributions, not expenditures (the focus of Citizens United and other cases). As one GOP finance attorney put it, campaign finance relies on three elements: rules governing expenditures, contributions, and disclosure. The courts have ripped apart most expenditure regulations; the fear among reform advocates is now they’ve turned their attention to contributions.
— Those same advocates argued that the court’s majority opinion, written by Chief Justice John Roberts, reaffirmed the legality of contribution limits. But they’re also realistic: This isn’t a court that’s been kind to their way of thinking about campaign finance regulations. None would be seriously surprised if individual contribution limits came under scrutiny next.
— Here’s a possible outcome to keep an eye on, suggested by GOP campaign finance attorney William McGinley: The Supreme Court eventually rules that contribution limits are constitutional but stipulates that the current caps are far too low. Expect discussion in the coming weeks about legislative action to raise those limits (of course, as usual, don’t hold your breath waiting for legislative action).
The country’s post-Watergate campaign finance system has been turned on its head in recent years. And the changes might not be done yet.
— Alex Roarty
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Much has been made of David Brooks’s recent New York Times column, in which confesses to missing already the civility and humanity of Barack Obama, compared to who might take his place. In NewYorker.com, Jeffrey Frank reminds us how critical such attributes are to foreign policy. “It’s hard to imagine Kennedy so casually referring to the leader of Russia as a gangster or a thug. For that matter, it’s hard to imagine any president comparing the Russian leader to Hitler [as] Hillary Clinton did at a private fund-raiser. … Kennedy, who always worried that miscalculation could lead to war, paid close attention to the language of diplomacy.”
“We haven’t seen a true leftist since FDR, so many millions are coming out of the woodwork to vote for Bernie Sanders; he is the Occupy movement now come to life in the political arena.” So says Bill Maher in his Hollywood Reporter cover story (more a stream-of-consciousness riff than an essay, actually). Conservative states may never vote for a socialist in the general election, but “this stuff has never been on the table, and these voters have never been activated.” Maher saves most of his bile for Donald Trump and Sarah Palin, writing that by nominating Palin as vice president “John McCain is the one who opened the Book of the Dead and let the monsters out.” And Trump is picking up where Palin left off.