(A shortened version of this post was published as a letter to the editor in the Boston Herald, click here.)
The McCutcheon ruling is a win for corrupt policymaking, not for the First Amendment (Win for 1st Amendment, Boston Herald April 4). And it's a win for large political campaign contributors, who already command considerable political voice and influence, to obtain even greater say in the political process. The select group of ultra-wealthy individuals (about 600) that contributed the $123,000 max before the Court struck down aggregate limits will now be able to give upwards of $3.6 million directly to federal candidates and parties. It's the rest of us who will suffer.
The Robert's Court's naive and narrow definition of corruption is to blame. Rarely are elected officials so crass as to engage in outright quid pro quo corruption (i.e. bribery), the only type of corruption the Court sees fit to prevent by campaign finance (never mind the other laws on the books to stop it). Much more dangerous to our modern representative democracy is institutional corruption caused by "improper dependence," the very thing aggregate contribution limits sought to mitigate.
As anyone involved in politics knows, major donors routinely get special access to elected officials, their lobbyists are invited to help write legislation, and they are rewarded with favorable policy and jobs. How opening more doors for big money to flow to candidates' coffers is a win for my First Amendment rights and not simply a win for these donors to exact more government favors is an illusion that ignores the real world of political giving.