Expert’s take: Supreme Court’s campaign finance ruling
Hans von Spakovsky, manager of the Heritage Foundation’s Election Law Reform Initiative, shared his thoughts on the Supreme Court’s campaign finance ruling:
Could you sum up in layman’s terms what the ruling says?
“Under the federal law that governs financing of federal campaigns, Congress put in two kinds of limits on contributions. There are limits on how much you can give individually to a particular candidate or committee. Right now that’s at $2,600. That’s the most you can give to somebody running for Congress or the Presidency per election. But Congress also put in what they call aggregate limits, which says, ‘this is the total you can give.’ So while you can give $2,600 to a particular candidate running for office, you can’t give more than about $48,000, I think is the total right now. So if you wanted to give the maximum to a dozen or two dozen members of Congress, once you hit that $48,000, you can’t give anymore to any candidate no matter how small the amount is.
“What the Supreme Court said yesterday was that that aggregate limit is unconstitutional. The best comparison I think that they used was saying, just as it would be unconstitutional for Congress to tell a newspaper that they can’t endorse more than a certain number of candidates, it’s also unconstitutional to tell folks they can only contribute to a certain number of candidates running for Congress.”
Were you surprised by the ruling?
“No, it makes perfect logical sense. There’s no logic in the way that aggregate limit was put in. I think they got it exactly right, that this was a basic First Amendment violation.”
What are the implications of the ruling for Americans and the future?
“I do think there’s been a lot of hysteria already generated by the New York Times and other liberal media, and I think this was also generated by Stephen Breyer, one of the liberal justices who said that this would eviscerate our campaign finance system. I think that that is a gross exaggeration of this. I think it means individual Americans who want to support candidates that they like are no longer going to be limited. The best example I can give you is this: If you are a big believer in the Second Amendment, and you want to help candidates across the country support gun rights, before this ruling, you had to pick and choose, you could only help a small number of candidates if you wanted to contribute to them. Now, you’ll be able to help as many candidates as you want across the country. You’re still going to be limited on the amount you can give to each individual candidate, but you’re not going to be limited in how many of those candidates you can help across the country.
“I think this is a great decision. I think it helps to restore First Amendment rights and I was actually very excited when it came out.”