Supreme Court opens the floodgates on political spending

If you’ve money to burn, don’t turn it into mere ash.

Buy an election or two.

Courtesy of the Supreme Court.

Politics used to be all about hot air.

Granted, there still is plenty of that.

Why do you think we have global warming everywhere but in red states?

But now cold cash is even hotter as a molten political currency.

The Supreme Court opened the door for even more money to be pumped into the political system with its Wednesday ruling on McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, which struck down overall limits on campaign contributions.

The decision means that a single donor will soon be able to contribute millions of hard dollars — in limited contributions — to political parties, candidates and political action committees.

The truly elite donors are poised to be the big winners with the decision, with money giving them the power to set and limit the party agendas.

Candidates for sale. Like meat on the hoof.

The decision, by a 5-to-4 vote along ideological lines, with the court’s more conservative justices in the majority, was a sequel of sorts to Citizens United, the 2010 decision that struck down limits on independent campaign spending by corporations and unions.

But that ruling did nothing to affect the other main form of campaign finance regulation: caps on direct contributions to candidates and political parties.

Wednesday’s decision addressed that second kind of regulation.

It did not affect familiar base limits on contributions from individuals to candidates, currently $2,600 per candidate in primary and general elections.

But it said that overall limits of $48,600 by individuals every two years for contributions to all federal candidates violated the First Amendment, as did separate aggregate limits on contributions to political party committees, currently $74,600.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., writing for four justices in the controlling opinion, said the First Amendment required striking down the limits.

“There is no right in our democracy more basic,” he wrote, “than the right to participate in electing our political leaders.”

Dissenting from the bench, Justice Stephen G. Breyer called the decision a blow to the First Amendment and American democracy.

“If the court in Citizens United opened a door,” he said, “today’s decision may well open a floodgate.”

Amazing how two Supremes could vary so widely on their interpretation of the First Amendment. Didn’t they both go to law school?

Of course, politics usually do color Supreme Court decisions.

It’s as American as apple pie and Obamacare (well, perhaps not).

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