You'll have to do a lot better than that. (stockmonkeys.com)
There is going to be a lot of speculation about how the Supreme Court's decision in McCutcheon v. FEC to eliminate the aggregate limits on campaign contributions will affect the influence of big money in politics. That's because it serves to make an already extremely complex system a little more complex, and there are multiple ways the decision could matter; on the other hand, it might make no difference at all. For the moment, I want to consider the role of disclosure, because I think it's going to become increasingly important in the near future, particularly if the Court goes all the way and eliminates all contribution limits. It should be said that in this case, they could have done that, but decided not to (only Clarence Thomas, in a concurring opinion, advocated eliminating all limits). But there is some reason to believe that the conservatives on the Court will go there eventually. And if they do, disclosure is going to be their justification: that as along as we know who's giving money to candidates, the risk of corruption will be small. That might strike you as reasonable, or it might strike you as absurd (you think the banks aren't getting their money's worth when they donate to every member of the committees that oversee them?), but it will be an argument that conservatives are likely to be making with increasing frequency in the coming years as they try to remove the last bricks from the crumbling edifice of campaign finance restrictions.
Yesterday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo unveiled his own proposal for public financing of campaigns. The governor’s proposal adds to several others currently under consideration to get money out of the electoral system in the state. After a year of high-profile corruption scandals and arrests, it’s clear that something must be done.
At the opening of each oral argument session, a Supreme Court clerk announces, “All those having business before this honorable Court draw nigh and you shall be heard.”But does the Court really listen?
Last week, when Mitt Romney claimed not to have seen an attack ad his campaign had produced, he was no doubt trying to blame his super PAC, Restore Our Future, for coming up with it. Whether or not the former Massachusetts governor was being truthful—one can imagine that, in a fast-moving campaign, candidates only passively approve the messages their surrogates put out—the incident underscored the way super PACs, which are barred from coordinating directly with the candidates they are supporting, have come to dominate the political landscape.
Changes in electoral law often shift elections in ways that cannot be predicted. Jimmy Carter won the Democratic nomination in '76 thanks to his understanding of the new primary rules that favored victories in early states rather than hobnobbing with party elites in smoke-filled rooms. The rise of the super PAC could play a similar role in 2012, completely revamping the operation of presidential campaigns. Thanks to the Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United ruling, this new type of group is allowed to raise unlimited campaign funds from both individuals and corporations.