The Republican National Committee is betting on the U.S. Supreme Court. No, they’re not going to their local bookie, but instead they are betting that a ruling by the Court will help them recoup the losses seen in the 2012 election cycle. How exactly are they planning on doing this? They have brought a lawsuit against the Federal Elections Commission (FEC). They are challenging the individual limits that are imposed on campaign donations. The suit claims that the caps on amount that individuals can donate unfairly limits the 1st Amendment right to free speech. Currently an individual is limited to spending $123,200 in two years, which includes $48,600 to all candidates, and $78,600 to all PACs (political action committees) and parties.
While this case is technically being brought to the Court by Alabama businessman Shaun McCutcheon, the case is being driven by those deep within the GOP. They realize that even though a lot of money flowed to the party through Super PACs, they still lost. Many within the party feel that they lost because they were not able to control the message. By having money flow directly to the party, Republicans hope to regain control over the message so that it is more united with the platform.
Democracy 21, a watchdog group for campaign finance, is closely watching this case. They fear that a positive outcome in this case could well open the flood gates to wealthy individuals who want to have direct influence over political issues and politicians. In doing so, it would create a fertile environment for corruption. Those lined up on the side of Mr. McCutcheon and the RNC argue otherwise.
The Center for Competitive Politics, the 501c(3) organization that is providing assistance to the Plaintiff, argues that the First Amendment requires the government to carefully tailor its regulation of political expression and association. Aggregate limits fail to do so, and are instead premised on an unlawful attempt to equalize political speech.
What’s more important is that the person who heads the Center has a bit of a conflict of interest. The founder of the organization is Bradley A. Smith. He used to be the chairman at the FEC. Additional conflict comes with another individual in the organization, Stephen Hoersting. He was formerly Smith’s Legal Counsel at the FEC. Both have worked hard to loosen the limitations on campaign finance, including support for the Citizens United case.
Ironically, that effort back fired. As a result, Republicans are relying on Mr. Smith and the Center to turn things around for them in 2014. But will it work? We’ll find out in October. That’s when the Supreme Court is scheduled to rule on this case. In the meantime, Republicans are hedging their bets that this ruling will help to reverse the losses they experienced in the 2012 election cycle. What’s not clear is why they think that loosening individual limitations will produce an outcome in their favor. Even if they have all the money they want, it will not stop the litany of rogue Republicans who can’t seem to stop themselves from making offensive statements. In the meantime, our political system may well suffer even more indignity through further corruption, whether it be through corporations or individuals.