The Supreme Court Just Gutted Another Campaign Finance Law. Here’s What Happened.

Friday, April 4, 2014
By Paul Martin

Everything you need to know about the McCutcheon v. FEC ruling.

By Andy Kroll
MotherJones.com
Wed Apr. 2, 2014

The Supreme Court on Wednesday released its decision in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, the blockbuster money-in-politics case of the current term. The court’s five conservative justices all agreed that the so-called aggregate limit on the amount of money a donor can give to candidates, political action committees, and political parties is unconstitutional. In a separate opinion, conservative justice Clarence Thomas went even further, calling on the court to overrule Buckley v. Valeo, the 1976 decision that concluded it was constitutional to limit contributions to candidates.

In their dissent, the court’s four liberal justices called their colleagues’ logic “faulty” and said it “misconstrues the nature of the competing constitutional interests at stake.” The dissent continues, “Taken together with Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, today’s decision eviscerates our Nation’s campaign finance laws, leaving a remnant incapable of dealing with the grave problems of democratic legitimacy that those laws were intended to resolve.”

The decision is a boon for wealthy donors, a potential lifeline for the weakened Democratic and Republican parties, and the latest in a series of setbacks dealt by the Roberts court to supporters of tougher campaign laws. Here’s what you need to know.

How’d this happen? In the 2012 election cycle, a wealthy Alabama businessman named Shaun McCutcheon tried to make donations in the amount of $1,776 to 27 right-leaning congressional candidates. Not so fast, replied the Federal Election Commission (FEC), the nation’s campaign finance watchdog.

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