The United States Supreme this week struck down a federal law capping the total amount any individual can contribute to federal candidates in a two-year election cycle.

The ruling is much broader than just the elimination of this particular cap on donations.  Combined with the Citizens United decision, the Supreme Court is essentially saying that the Constitution prohibits practically all efforts to restrict the role of money in politics in the form of limiting campaign contributions.

We aren’t willing to go as far as one candidate did, suggesting that this is the worst Supreme Court decisions since Dred Scott, but suffice it to say that we aren’t too pleased that the Roberts Court is willing to ignore both precedent and the obvious dangerous role of money in politics.

The key to understanding the McCutcheon decision is understanding that, in the view of the Chief Justice, campaign contributions made in the hope of gaining influence and access does not constitute corruption.  Instead, the Court believes that influence and access exemplify “a central feature of democracy—that constituents support candidates who share their beliefs and interests, and candidates who are elected can be expected to be responsive to those concerns.”

So what does this mean for Ohio’s campaign finance laws?

“What laws?” some may ask.  Good question. Ohio’s campaign finance laws are, at best, on life support.

The Secretary of State’s Office had produced this handy chart outlining the current contribution limits under Ohio law:

CampaignLimitsChart

 

Now, that chart is probably ancient history.

Here is the new chart:

NewChart

While the decision did not directly impact the limitations on donations to individual campaigns, the Court clearly signaled that limits on donations to political parties and candidates likely unconstitutionaly restrict free speech.  This includes limits imposed both by the State and Federal Governments.

Our Supreme Court expert explains, “By narrowly focusing on quid pro quo deals, what we call bribery, as the only constitutional justification for limits on donations, the Court is saying loudly that five Justices believe that there is no constitutional justification for preventing a rich donor from giving unlimited contributions to one or many candidates.  I think if someone brought a challenge today to Ohio’s campaign contribution limits, they would almost certainly win.”

But this is all good because it promotes free speech, right?  We ask sarcastically: what could possibly go wrong in the Ohio Legislature if a handful of people can give millions of dollars to individual candidates?

 

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