Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Columns

April 7, 2014

BRIAN HOWEY: Terre Haute attorney's overhaul of U.S. election finance

Jim Bopp Jr. framed, argued Citizens United, SpeechNow

(Continued)

The McCutcheon ruling ends the existing rules limit of $74,600 to party committees and PACs, and $48,600 to all federal candidates. This would allow a rich donor like Sheldon Adelson to contribute the maximum $5,200 to every Republican (or Democrat, if you’re George Soros) in the country.

Justice Stephen G. Breyer said in writing the McCutheon dissent it essentially opens “the floodgates” for the rich and powerful to spend on campaigns. But Chief Justice John G. Roberts, the Long Beach, Ind., native who wrote the majority opinion, reasoned, “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 popular opposition.”

Bopp explained, “This is also a great victory for political parties, who have been disadvantaged recently by the rise of super-PACs. Political parties serve vital purposes, such as tempering polarization, and this is a step in the right direction to re-empower them.”

Republican National Chairman Reince Priebus added, “Today’s decision is 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.”

Those perspectives depend on your position. Clearly the political parties had lost clout to the Super PACs in recent cycles. In the midst of the 2012 Senate race, Donnelly said, “I think that there are people out there trying to buy Indiana’s Senate seat. The Supreme Court decision a few years ago — Citizens United — was a terrible mistake. Even further, what was a mistake was much of this money, we don’t even know where it comes from.”

I asked Moudock after his first debate with Donnelly about the millions of dollars gushing in around his campaign, with the candidate having little control. In the craziness of the 2012 Senate race, the supposedly uncoordinated spending created a hodgepodge of messaging, and it nearly obscured the Mike Pence/John Gregg gubernatorial race.

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