Are Donation Limits Next?


Now that the Supreme Court has overturned restrictions on the political speech of corporations, could restrictions on donations to political campaigns be vulnerable too? So far the Court has not revisited the distinction it drew between spending and contributing in the 1976 decision Buckley v. Valeo, which upheld the donation limits imposed by the Federal Election Campaign Act. But it never made much sense to say that spending your own money on political ads is completely protected by the First Amendment while spending money that other people give you is not. Now that groups stymied by donation limits can support candidates through unlimited independent expenditures, the distinction is even harder to justify, since "corruption or the appearance of corruption" could occur in this context as well.

This year an individual may give a candidate up to $2,400 per election. Even if the Court does not reconsider Buckley, members of Congress who feel threatened by independently funded criticism may decide it's in their interest to eliminate, or at least substantially raise, that ceiling. That way they could hit up just a few wealthy supporters to counter ads sponsored by interest groups. Then again, they would have to worry about election challenges not only from self-funded multimillionaires and billionaires but from candidates with a wealthy sponsor or two. The latter effect would give us a greater diversity of candidates and make elections more interesting. It might even knock down re-election rates, which stood at 94 percent for the House and 83 percent for the Senate in 2008, by a few points.

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  1. There should only be a two rules for campaign finance.

    1. Candidates must account for every dollar raised.
    2. All donations above $100.00 are to be posted in a searchable database online within 24 hrs of the check being cashed.

    Other than that nothing. At least then we could see who the candidates are beholden to.


    Joe Dokes

    1. You really don’t even need those laws, as voters will demand that information from their candidates if they care enough. Any candidate who is hiding the source of their financial backers will be at a disadvantage.

      (I’ll just take this chance to point out yet again that the only effective solution to the appearance of corruption is to reduce what politicians have the power to give away in the first place)

      1. Which intelligent, caring voters demanding financial backing will those be?

  2. The great liberal hero Eugen McCarthy would have never had a campaign under today’s rules.

    1. Or great pinko hero Eugene Debs.

  3. The great liberal hero Eugen McCarthy would have never had a campaign under today’s rules.

  4. But without a limit on campaign donations, won’t we all have to vote Republican?

    1. Yes. From Wikipedia: Communism is a social structure in which classes are abolished and property is commonly controlled, as well as a political philosophy and social movement …

  5. Is this a real phenomenon? You read a lot about wealthy folks getting into politics (your Bloombergs, Corzines, Lauders, Romneys, etc.) but is are there clear examples of someone who is a “front for a wealthy patron” candidate? Or, even more interestingly, are there obvious “multiple fronts for a single wealthy patron”? You’d think this might be possible in some counties.

    1. There are examples of a few wealthy people bankrolling campaigns. A few wealthy people bankrolled Eugene McCarthy’s campaign in 1968. A few donors were behind Ronald Reagan’s campaign for governor of CA.

      The problem with donation limits is that it makes politics only available for the super wealthy and the super connected. It used to be that someone could go out and convince a few people to give them money and run a campaign. Now you can’t do that. You have to approach thousands of people. The only people who can do that are big time policos with big donor lists. It is one of the biggest reasons that so many Congress critters are idiot sons and daughters of other congress critters. Only someone born into a political family has the kinds of connections necessary to get a Congressional seat. Campaign finance reform is creating an oligarchy in this country.

      1. Don’t be ridiculous. Just look at George Obama.

    2. I’m not wealthy, but if I was, I might bankroll a Libertarian candidate I had real respect for. I sure as hell wouldn’t become the candidate, because I couldn’t survive 5 seconds of vetting.

      1. I told you all that goat porn would come back to haunt you.

        1. I was young, I needed money, and they said it would be “artistic”…

          1. They thought you were autistic….the other stuff: they were talking to the goat.

          2. I for one thought the cinematography was very sophisticated and effective.

          3. The acting was quite good, especially the looks of revulsion on the goats’ faces.

            1. It was really an amazing technical achievement. It really looked like those goats were vomiting.

              Wait a minute…

              1. It’s all CGI goat porn nowadays. Not like the old days. Nothing’s authentic any more, I tell you.

                1. *sigh* I guess I should have known better when I heard the title would be Puking Nanny Sluts 4.

                  1. Wearing Cashmere, Get’s My Goat and I thought the title was indicative of a fashion show…Oh my…

  6. the 1976 decision Buckley v. Valeo, which upheld the donation limits imposed by the Federal Election Campaign Act

    I though Buckley dealt with a state law?

  7. The standard leftroll cant around here is that it’s OK for rich people to pay for more in taxes than the poor because they get so much more from the government due to being rich. While this is, of course, completely stupid and unfair in any rational sense of the word, doesn’t it follow that if rich people can be changed more in taxes, they should be able to get more say in government through increased donation amounts?

    1. Ha. The lefties I know aren’t even close to being that coherent. I have family in Oregon, and have been treated to some delightful Facebook updates about measures 66 & 67 (tax hikes to fleece “teh rich & teh corporashuns”). The line of reasoning seems to be no more sophisticated than: all your filthy riches are belong to us.

      1. Why didn’t they learn the kindergarten lesson that it’s not OK to steal?

        I bet they sucked at Quiet As A Mouse, too.

        1. Is that a Kentucky game, or just what your mum invented so you’d stop asking for cake?

          And, argh. A pet peeve is wearing one’s poverty as a badge of moral superiority. “I only made $X last year, so of course unnamed Rich Dude should have a greater percentage of his money taken.” Huh? And why don’t I just block their status updates?

          1. QAAM is this horrible cynical game where the object is to make as little noise as possible in a class room. You think it’s a game when you are little, but it’s really just the teacher’s way to shut a classroom of kids up.

          2. The nobility of poverty! I’ll pass, thanks.

          3. It is worse than that. Not only is poverty a badge of honor, but also working for a low wage is somehow being exploited. Time was when people who did things like shine shoes and clean bathrooms were looked upon with respect. If you worked a tough job, you were respected as someone willing to sacrifice to pay your own way. But liberals in the 1960s changed that. Doing menial labor was considered to be being exploited. Better to be on welfare than work some menial job like a sucker.

            1. John, how old are you exactly? Because you sound old.

              1. I just have an old soul. I am only 40. But I was the youngest of six and grew up in and around Western Kansas, which was about 20 years behind the rest of the country. So, I can’t remember 50s, but I sort of can because I can remember the 70s in rural America.

                1. LOL John. I have to admit I am with Epi on this one; from your writing I pegged you around 50-55.

                  No offense meant, but yeah you have that “old soul” come through in your posting.

            2. There was always crack the whip. It wasn’t a successful game unless some poor bastard at the end of the line got totally decleated.

          4. A Democrat is someone who doesn’t want anybody making any more money than he does; a Republican is someone who doesn’t want anybody having any more fun than he does.

        2. And also immediately peeked after being selected in “7 up”.

          1. I loved that game. It was the best way of ascertaining who had a crush on whom.

            1. I always like Red Rover. Nothing more fun that crashing through your opponents’ clasped hands.

              1. We weren’t allowed to play Red Rover- too “dangerous.” Dammit, John, you’re right. Things were better back in the day.

                1. Damned hippie teachers.

                2. Damned hippie teachers.

                3. I am told they no longer have jungle gyms or teeter totters anymore. What a shame. When you are like six and the biggest teeter totter was level at about your neck and peaked at about three times your height, that some made for TV entertainment.

            2. We had this peculiar way of playing dodgeball in my elementary school that left me baffled the first time I saw real dodgeball played.

              We lined up against a brick wall with our palms on the wall and a kid would throw a basketball at us from about 12 feet away. You could only dodge if you could keep one palm on the brick wall.

              It really, really hurt to play.

              1. That isn’t dodge ball. That is just lining up a bunch of kids and punishing them. That is brutal.

                1. Bombardment! Bombardment! Bombardment!

                2. Bombardment! Bombardment! Bombardment!

                3. It was always a recess game, not anything sanctioned. Gym class was much more mellow. They’d bring a parachute in three for four times a year. I loved the parachute.

                  We played a lot of Red Rover, although it got played less after a kid had his wrist broken. He was holding on too tight and the kid, a lumbering friend of mine named Murray, had built up a head of steam.

                  We also had a kid tear back a flap of his scalp when he jumped out of the swing at the apex and grazed a see-saw when he landed.

                  How I survived with out breaking something is baffling, in retrospect. Of course, I had constant nosebleeds as a kid. Maybe it was like Spidey-sense for playground danger. My nose bled so much, they’d have me in a haz-mat bubble these days.

                  1. We played tackle football in vacant lots all the way through school. And they were brutal games. I can think of two occasions where kids ended up with broken bones. And I don’t remember there being on thing said about it by their parents. Now, a broken collar bone would result in federal litigation.

              2. You played dodgeball with basketballs? srsly? A hard thrown “four square” ball hurts enough as it is.

                Speaking of which, has anyone ever played “four square”? We only ever used those balls for dodgeball and kickball. To this day, I have no idea what four square is.

                1. We played four square. It’s sort of like hopscotch hackysack with your hands.

                  1. Although, I just remembered that we always played it with a basketball.

                    We only got that red ball out for kickball, which was the only playground sport I was any good at.

              3. Sugarfree, lol but I really want to know how you played musical chairs at your prison school.

            3. I remember tetherball. And tire pyramids as well.

              And the monkeybars.

              Sheesh, do they even have P.E. and recess anymore?

              1. Yes they do but they stand around talking about texting, face book and their you tube channel

  8. I always found that personal contribution limits were a blatant way of curbing third parties from competing.

    The limits either need to be raised much, much higher, or it just needs to be repealed altogether.

  9. Just so, Jacob.

    Unless SCOTUS is willing to

    (1) make some kind of arbitrary definition of what constitutes the “press”,

    (2) state that “speech” which the government cannot control consists only of your unaided voice, and

    (3) that freedom of association means only that you can associate with people in a way that requires no expenditure of funds, I don’t see how they can uphold donation limits.

    Absent this kind of restrictive reading, any one of those First Amendment provisions is violated by a law stating that limits the expenditure of money to distribute or publish your speech, individually or in a group.

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