McCutcheon is anti-democracy, not pro-free speech

McCutcheon is anti-democracy, not pro-free speech

Several of our past blogs (here and here) have covered the looming Supreme Court case McCutcheon v. FEC in detail. At issue in the case is the constitutionality of aggregate contribution limits, or the total amounts individuals can donate directly to federal candidates and parties; in short, whether or not the ultra-rich should be able to give more than $74,600 to parties, $48,600 to candidates, and $123,200 combined (by the way, these already large figures go up every two years at the rate of inflation).

The plaintiff Shaun McCutcheon and his supporters make a faux “populist” appeal against contribution limits. They contend that the aggregate limits infringe on our free speech rights by lowering the number of candidates to whom we are legally allowed to donate big contributions.

But any talk of our and we is disingenuous at best. Only 646 people reached the combined limit, or a whooping .0002% of the country’s voting age population. A more conservative estimate puts the number of affected individuals at closer to 1200, representing, wait for it, a towering .0004% of U.S. voters.

Make no mistake McCutcheon’s challenge is not about expanding our collective rights; it’s about further amplifying the rights of a select few by diluting the rights of the rest of us. It’s about decimating what is left of political equality by granting even more access to and influence over policymaking to those who can make five, six, and seven figure campaign contributions.

In a recent New York Times interview, Mr. McCutcheon blatantly admits as much.

…[McCutcheon] sounded a little star-struck by the attention he had received from prominent politicians, first for his donations and now for his lawsuit. “I met all the presidential candidates that came to Alabama, one-on-one meetings, including Mitt Romney,” he said.

He added that he had met some 15 senators during recent trips to Washington and had extended discussions with Mr. McConnell and Senator Mike Lee, Republican of Utah. “I never expected that kind of one-on-one time with sitting senators,” he said. “I never expected that in my lifetime.”

I’m way more well known in D.C. than in Alabama now,” he said, indicating that this was fine with him.

If the aggregate limits are struck down,” he said, “I’m going to donate more money.”

If $123,200 gets him sit downs with Senate leaders and all of the presidential candidates, we can only imagine what $3.6 million will get him.