SPOTLIGHT

The Next Campaign Finance Fight

People file out of the Supreme Court after the morning session hearing arguments on the Affordable Care Act on Wednesday, march 28, 2012, the last day of hearings. 
National Journal
Alex Roarty
See more stories about...
Alex Roarty
April 3, 2014, 7:40 a.m.

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

What We're Following See More »
‘LOTS OF MEETINGS’
Hill Dems Mull Dropping Wasserman Schultz
20 minutes ago
THE DETAILS

Concerned that she's become too divisive, "Democrats on Capitol Hill are discussing whether Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz should step down as Democratic National Committee (DNC) chairwoman before the party’s national convention in July. ... Wasserman Schultz has had an increasingly acrimonious relationship with the party’s other presidential candidate, Bernie Sanders, and his supporters, who argue she has tilted the scales in Clinton’s favor." The money quote, from a Democratic senator who backs Clinton: “There have been a lot of meetings over the past 48 hours about what color plate do we deliver Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s head on." Meanwhile, Newsweek takes a look at why no one seems to like Wasserman Schultz.

Source:
PRESIDENT PLEDGES VETO
House Votes Today on Bill to Strip Budget Autonomy from DC
20 minutes ago
THE LATEST

"The U.S. House of Representatives plans to vote Wednesday on a Republican bill that would block the District of Columbia from spending locally raised tax revenue without congressional approval, prompting President Obama to pledge to veto it. In issuing the veto threat on Tuesday, the Obama White House made one of the strongest statements to date in support of the District’s attempt to win financial independence from Congress."

Source:
HE ‘WILL NEVER BE PRESIDENT’
Warren Goes After Trump Yet Again
11 hours ago
THE LATEST

When it comes to name-calling among America's upper echelon of politicians, there may be perhaps no greater spat than the one currently going on between Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Donald Trump. While receiving an award Tuesday night, she continued a months-long feud with the presumptive GOP presidential nominee. Calling him a "small, insecure moneygrubber" who probably doesn't know three things about Dodd-Frank, she said he "will NEVER be president of the United States," according to her prepared remarks."We don't know what Trump pays in taxes because he is the first presidential nominee in 40 years to refuse to disclose his tax returns. Maybe he’s just a lousy businessman who doesn’t want you to find out that he’s worth a lot less money than he claims." It follows a long-line of Warren attacks over Twitter, Facebook and in interviews that Trump is a sexist, racist, narcissistic loser. In reply, Trump has called Warren either "goofy" or "the Indian"—referring to her controversial assertion of her Native American heritage. 

LEVERAGE
Kasich Tells His Delegates to Remain Pledged to Him
16 hours ago
THE LATEST

Citing the unpredictable nature of this primary season and the possible leverage they could bring at the convention, John Kasich is hanging onto his 161 delegates. "Kasich sent personal letters Monday to Republican officials in the 16 states and the District of Columbia where he won delegates, requesting that they stay bound to him in accordance with party rules."

Source:
LOST BY HALF A PERCENTAGE POINT
Sanders Wants a Recount in Kentucky
18 hours ago
THE LATEST

Bernie Sanders "signed a letter Tuesday morning requesting a full and complete check and recanvass of the election results in Kentucky ... where he trails Hillary Clinton by less than one-half of 1 percent of the vote. The Sanders campaign said it has asked the Kentucky secretary of state to have election officials review electronic voting machines and absentee ballots from last week's primary in each of the state's 120 counties.

Source:
×