McCutcheon’s faux populism

McCutcheon's faux populism

The plaintiff in McCutcheon v. FEC, Shaun McCutcheon, contended that he “fought for your right to support as many political candidates and parties as you like [emphasis added].” Llya Shapiro at Cato Institute said by striking down the aggregate contribution limits the Court “gave those who contribute money to candidates and parties (nearly) as much freedom as those who spend independently on campaigns and causes.” (Never mind those “two” groups of people are one in the same.)

And the faux populist appeals in support of the Court’s decision don’t stop there.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich even went as far as to say that striking down all contribution limits would, “overnight, equalize the middle class and the rich.” Are you kidding me?

The number of Americans actually affected by contribution limits is strikingly small, and it’s certainly nobody in the middle class. In the 2012 elections, a mere 591 people, representing a whopping .0002% of the U.S. voting age population, hit the $123,200 aggregate limit struck down by the Court in McCutcheon. All of them share at least one thing in common: they’re all rich, very rich.

The median household income in the United States is $52,100, nearly two and half times less than the former $123,200 limit. Even the 99th percentile of households takes home only $390,000 in annual income; wealthy to be sure, but still far below that of the nation’s biggest political spenders.

Far from equalizing the political weight of the middle class and the rich, the decision further amplifies the voices’ of a handful of ultra-wealthy that can afford to contribute $3.6 million directly to candidates while diluting the voices of everybody else.

And the deck was already stacked against small donors. The top 32 Super PAC donors, giving an average of $9.9 million each, matched the $313 million that Obama and Romney raised from all of their small donors combined. The share of campaign funds coming from very large donors will only grow greater now.

How opening more doors for big money to flow to candidates’ coffers is a win for anybody but a few billionaires and multi-millionaires is an illusion that ignores the real world of political giving.