Another View: McCutcheon ruling will not open money floodgates

Published: Wednesday, Apr. 9, 2014 - 7:54 pm

What’s with the hyperbolic talk about “the flood of 2014” in The Bee about the U.S. Supreme Court’s McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission decision? (“ Supreme Court opens campaign cash floodgates,” Editorials, April 3).

Yes, a small number of individual donors will now be able to contribute more money to more candidates and political parties. However, such donations remain fully subject to strict limits to each recipient and are fully disclosed by the recipients on campaign reports.

That was the law before Citizens United and McCutcheon, and remains the law on disclosure of contributors. The McCutcheon decision also has no impact on the current prohibitions against corporate and union contributions to federal candidates and political parties.

As a result of McCutcheon, many observers believe the political watercourse will be redirected toward coordinated spending in behalf of candidates by political parties, shifting away from the current imbalance that favors third-party independent spending. Political parties will use their funds to support the parties’ candidates for federal offices. That is the parties’ fundamental purpose.

But is there anything to The Bee editorial board’s “floodgates” argument? There has never been any limit on the aggregate amount a federal PAC could spend, provided it had received contributions in lawfully limited amounts per donor. Only independent spending can be funded with unlimited contributions, and that law was not changed by Citizens United.

California’s Political Reform Act does not have aggregate limits on what any donor – individual, corporate or labor union – can contribute to state candidates.

Both The Bee editorial and the Jessica Levinson op-ed about the McCutcheon decision contend that candidates and political parties will be able to collect vastly more money from a single check from a donor through “joint fundraising committees” (“ Disclosure’s key after campaign finance ruling,” Viewpoints, April 3). These joint fundraising committees have existed for decades, with each participating candidate and committee fully disclosing the contributions it receives through the joint effort.

The speculation that a single joint fundraising effort could amass millions from a single donor’s check with all the money collected diverted back to a candidate is false, from a legal and practical perspective. Based upon past giving records, the total amount of such additional donations will remain a small fraction of total campaign spending in federal elections.

The “flood of 2014” the editorial board frets about simply won’t occur. The board should favor McCutcheon’s result: greater disclosure and accountability.

Charles H. Bell Jr. is the California Republican Party’s general counsel.

Read more articles by Charles H. Bell Jr.

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