Again, U.S. Supreme Court Decides Against Democracy

McCutcheon ruling allows individuals to donate millions per election cycle, further drowning out voters’ voices

The Roberts Court today continued its drive to give Americans a government of, by and for big money.

“Today’s decision in McCutcheon v. FEC is Citizens United round two, further opening the floodgates for the nation’s wealthiest few to drown out the voices of the rest of us,” said Miles Rapoport, president of Common Cause.

“This decision lays out a welcome mat for corruption, here in Hawaii and across the country,” said Carmille Lim, executive director of Common Cause Hawaii. “This opens the door for each member of our congressional delegation and every candidate for Congress to solicit multi-million dollar gifts from ultra-wealthy donors. Common sense tells us that folks who can give that kind of money are going to want something in return.”

Thanks to today’s decision, a politician can  solicit from a single donor a $3.6 million check for party committees and federal candidates, consigning to background noise the hundreds of millions of Americans who can’t afford to give more than $5, $10 or even $100 to parties or the candidates of their choice.

“This is a return to the ‘soft money’ era, in which donors could hide six- and seven- figure gifts to individual candidates by donating the money to joint committees or party committees that simply passed it to the intended recipient. It is naïve to think that such vast sums of political money do not buy special access and favors,” said Rapoport.

Whether in Washington, at the statehouse or at city hall, major donors routinely get major access to the officials their money helps elect; their lobbyists are invited to help write and amend laws that impact their businesses, and they are rewarded with government jobs, contracts and tax breaks. This system already has helped produce economic inequality unlike any seen in America since before the Great Depression; the court today almost certainly made it worse.

“Today’s ruling makes it clear that, with the current Court, the only way to get meaningful campaign reform is by passing a constitutional amendment authorizing Congress and the states to limit campaign spending,” said Rapoport.

Common Cause-backed resolutions calling on Congress to pass a constitutional amendment have been approved by voters, state legislatures or local governments in 16 states and hundreds of localities coast-to-coast.

In addition, Common Cause will continue to push for public financing of campaigns at the federal, state and local levels, as well as improved disclosure of political money.

In Hawaii, the 2014 public funding bill, House Bill 2533, died in the Senate Judiciary and Labor Committee in mid-March. This bill would have established a publicly-financed elections program for the offices of state representative. The similar 2013 public funding bill, House Bill 1481, stalled in Conference Committee and “carried over” to the 2014 session and is still alive. Common Cause urges lawmakers to ensure HB1481 passes out of conference committee.