News Release

PIRGIM, Members of the Michigan Election Coalition Urge Supreme Court to Rule Against Removing Limits on Campaign Expenditures

McCutcheon v. FEC threatens democracy by giving no limit to campaign expenditures


For Immediate Release

From the Michigan Election Coalition

PIRGIM, Members of the Michigan Election Coalition Urge Supreme Court to Rule Against Removing Limits on Campaign Expenditures

McCutcheon v. FEC threatens democracy by giving no limit to campaign expenditures

LANSING – As the Supreme Court heard the first oral arguments in the McCutcheon vs. the Federal Election Commission case today, consumer advocacy groups and members of the Michigan Election Coalition—including PIRGIM, Common Cause Michigan, Communication Workers of America, and the Campaign Finance Reform Network—called on the Supreme Court to uphold campaign contribution limits. The groups warned that continuing the trend of Citizens United vs. FEC, which struck down campaign expenditure limits as unconstitutional, would lead to corruption and to a lack of public faith in our political system.

“The 2010 Citizens United case led to private interests spending even more on political campaigns and Super PACs,” said Eric S Mosher, Program Associate with PIRGIM. “The gradual rollback of campaign finance regulations is moving our country in the direction of outright corruption. It’s time for the Supreme Court to rule in favor of the public, instead of special interests, and uphold our democratic process.”

The McCutcheon case challenges existing regulations on campaign contribution limits, and was brought against the Federal Election Committee by appellants Shaun McCutcheon, Alabama businessman and conservative activist, and the Republican National Convention. The appellants hold that the overall limit that one person can contribute over each election period—$123,000—is unconstitutional and violates a private citizen’s First Amendment right to free speech.

“If individual limits on contributions to federal committees are overturned we’ll have federal officeholders soliciting contributions in excess of $2 million for joint fundraising committees. By any standard of reasonableness, that is corrupting,” said Rich Robinson, with the Campaign Finance Reform Network. “That may sound like a harsh judgment, but it is beyond fanciful to believe that an officeholder who solicited $2 million from a donor would later tell that donor ‘no’ about anything.”

The Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision removed limits on private political expenditures, cleared the way for the creation of “Super PACs,” and allowed for an unprecedented influx of spending in the 2012 election cycle. In 2012, 32 of the highest spending donors spent the same amount of money as every small donor to Obama and Romney combined; those 32 Super PAC contributors matched the contributions of almost 4 million everyday Americans.

“If this is badly decided it could put our democracy on the auction block,” said Melanie McElroy, Executive Director of Common Cause Michigan. “A wealthy donor could buy the attention of every single member of Congress, exchanging campaign cash for access and influence. Legalized bribery would be the result.”

However, the case kept intact regulations on how much individuals and groups could give directly to candidates during each two-year cycle. The upcoming McCutcheon decision threatens to do away with those limits as well, and could allow for single donors to funnel millions of dollars directly to candidates and their campaigns.

“We’re entering dangerous territory where money could trump citizens’ best interests,” said Mike Schulte from Communications Workers of America. “We’re opposing this measure to protect voters’ best interests, and to make sure that money isn’t dictating law but instead the will of the people.”

As the Supreme Court began hearing oral arguments, PIRGIM, Common Cause Michigan and the Campaign Finance Reform Network joined groups across the country urging the Court to rule in favor of the FEC, and uphold campaign contribution limits as constitutional.  Based on legal precedent, limits can be constitutional if contributions lead to corruption or the appearance of corruption.

“Oversized campaign contributions distort political incentives, and that’s something that the American people agree on,” continued Mosher. “We know that each extra dollar—or thousand dollars—that goes to someone’s campaign encourages that person to listen to those private funders over their constituents.”


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