The richest Americans finally caught a break today when the Supreme Court struck down the overall limits on federal campaign contributions to candidates, parties, and PACs by a 5-4 vote along predictable ideological lines. While the maximum donation from an individual to a candidate stands at $2,600, $32,400 to a national party, and $5,000 to a political committee (for now), this sequel to Citizens United undoes the aggregate max on all contributions, which was set at $123,200 for two years — $48,600 for candidates and $74,600 for committees — through 2014.
The limits “intrude without justification on a citizen’s ability to exercise ‘the most fundamental First Amendment activities,’” said Chief Justice John Roberts, quoting the 1976 campaign finance ruling in Buckley v. Valeo, which set the limits post-Watergate to prevent corruption.
Dissenting, Justice Stephen Breyer, who read his opinion from the bench to make a point, said, “If the court in Citizens United opened a door, today’s decision may well open a floodgate.” Indeed, Justice Clarence Thomas said he would have just gone ahead and gotten rid of all limits. It could happen!
“This in itself is a small step, but another step on the road to ruination. It could lead to interpretations of the law that would result in the end of any fairness in the political system as we know it,” warned New York Senator Chuck Schumer. RNC chairman Reince Priebus, on the other hand, was pleased, calling it “an important first step toward restoring the voice of candidates and party committees and a vindication for all those who support robust, transparent political discourse.” With money.