Sometimes doing the right thing hurts.
On Wednesday, the U.S.
Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, ruled the total money limits
individuals may give to candidates, political parties, and political
action committees violate the First Amendment portion of the U.S.
The case, McCutcheon v. FEC, revolved around an
Alabama businessman by the name of Shaun McCutcheon. McCutcheon donated
$1,776 - a number carrying symbolic significance beyond the dollar
amount - to 15 candidates for Congress. He wanted to give the same
amount to 12 more but along with other contributions the total would
have put him in violation of the legal limit for total political
donations. In 2014 that total was $123,200.
By the narrow 5-4
decision, the Court ruled McCutcheon was correct, the limit total was a
violation of his First Amendment right of Freedom of Speech. The
decision also strikes down laws in about a dozen states.
The ruling did not affect the limits imposed upon contributions to individual candidates. That remains at $2,600.
now ultra-wealthy individuals - the Koch brothers’ names were mentioned
multiple times during the case - may contribute up to $2,600 to as many
candidates as they wish. As could be expected, proponents of dropping
the total limits called it a great day for the First Amendment while
opponents said the decision would lead to the opportunity for even more
campaign finance corruption. Justice Stephen Breyer even went so far as
to state the ruling “eviscerates our nation’s campaign finance laws.”
For us, this is where the case becomes even more interesting.
also believe money has become far too important in the political
process. And apparently so does Chief Justice John Roberts. In the
majority opinion, Roberts wrote:
“Money in politics may at times
seem repugnant to some, but so too does much of what the First Amendment
vigorously protects. If the First Amendment protects flag burning,
funeral protests, and Nazi parades - despite the profound offense such
spectacles cause - it surely protects political campaign speech despite
In other words, just because a higher law - in
this case the U.S. Constitution - provides protections for something
perhaps even a majority of citizens do not like, laws from lower legal
authority cannot override the original law. If a law is passed at the
state level in Ohio, a local city council or county government cannot
pass a law to supersede it. If the federal government brings new
legislation into effect that Ohioans do not agree with, Columbus cannot
nullify that law.
And in this case, the U.S. Congress cannot pass a
law that is unconstitutional. If people are so concerned about campaign
finance reform and the inherent corruption in the campaign system, they
will need to change it at the constitutional level with an amendment.
off an opportunity for corruption is an admirable goal and one we hope
our legislators and leaders pursue. However, the proper steps must be
followed. Otherwise, what is to stop someone from issuing Executive
Orders overruling legislation or announcing they will not prosecute certain laws? But then, that would never happen in America.
applaud the U.S. Supreme Court, not necessarily for the outcome of the
ruling in the McCutcheon v. FEC case, but for following the rule of law.