April 3rd, 2014
09:18 AM ET
8 months ago

Inside Politics: Could more money (and transparency) be a good thing?

Here's what we're watching Thursday Inside Politics:

Turns out money is the same thing as speech in the eyes of the U.S. Supreme Court.

SCOTUS campaign finance in a nutshell: After the Supreme Court ruling in McCutcheon v. FEC yesterday, you can't just give as much money as you want to any candidate. Those limits are still set at $5,200 every two years. But there's now no limit on how much total you can give to all candidates. The old limit was $123,000 every two years. As Jeffrey Toobin put it on CNN just after the decision, essentially, in the eyes of the court, corporations are people and money is speech.

John Roberts’ majority ruling: “Money in politics may at times seem repugnant to some, but so too does much of what the First Amendment vigorously protects. If the First Amendment protects flag burning, funeral protests and Nazi parades - despite the profound offense such spectacles cause - it surely protects political campaign speech despite popular opposition.”

Stephen Breyer’s dissent: The decision “creates a loophole that will allow a single individual to contribute millions of dollars to a political party or to a candidate’s campaign. Taken together with Citizens United v. FEC, today’s decision eviscerates our Nation’s campaign finance laws, leaving a remnant incapable of dealing with the grave problems of democratic legitimacy that those laws were intended to resolve.”

Related: The high court’s impact on money and politics

Who wins after the Supreme Court decision? The establishment. And the political parties. Who else? About 3,000 people in 2012 maxed out their aggregate limit. But I bet those 3,000 people have a lot more money to give to these joint fundraising committees who will bundle the money to spread among parties and candidates.

From Five Thirty Eight: “... very few donors hit the limits set out by the Federal Election Committee (FEC) in 2012. Per Open Secrets, only 2,972 donors maxed out to committees, and only 591 maxed out to candidates. Maxed-out donors leaned about 3 to 2 toward giving to Republican candidates. Only 646 donors hit the limit on both committees and candidates. These numbers, however, probably slightly underestimate the GOP advantage going forward, because top Super PAC donations leaned 2 to 1 toward Republicans in 2012, according to the Sunlight Foundation.” LINK

There’s also an argument from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell that this could help transparency. Might fewer people donate to shadowy groups with opaque motivations if instead they can just give truckloads of money to the joint fundraising committees that will funnel it straight toward parties and candidates?

Regardless, National Journal's Ron Fournier made an intriguing point Inside Politics Thursday morning when he said more money could be a good thing if it is paired with more transparency.

"I think we’re moving quickly to the point where even Democrats now have to look at the old Republican idea that Republicans are now running from – which is, okay, if you want to be the senator from Tobacco, fine, you can take all the money that you want but it’s instantly transparent, instantly disclosed on the internet. So if you’re the senator of the Koch brothers, fine, but everybody knows about it as soon as you take that money," he said.

It is not clear that this decision will have much effect on the uber money men who seek a personally outsized role. The Sheldon Adelsons and Koch brothers of the world, along with the Michael Bloombergs and George Soroses, will probably continue to fund their pet issues at will.

Who loses? Political rabble rousers looking to shake up the system.

What does this mean for the future? The current court with its conservative majority, first with the Citizens United case and now with McCutcheon, has shown itself more than willing to upend decades-old money-in-politics laws passed by Congress. That’s a precedent that could portend even more decisions friendly to big donors in the future as cases become available.

Who’s hot in 2016? A new Quinnipiac Poll that shows New Jersey Gov. Christie’s temperature has fallen from the top spot to ninth place in the organization's thermometer of "hottest politicians." No. 1 is Sen. Elizabeth Warren at 48.6 degrees (though nearly half of Americans don't know enough about her to form an opinion), while Christie is at 45.2, down from 55.5 in early January. Hillary Clinton comes in second at 47.8, and only 1% don't know enough about her.

But the poll doesn’t mean Christie is unpopular or that he’s unpopular with donors.

CNN’s Paul Steinhauser reports the Republican Governors Association has raised a record $23.5 million the first three months of this year, and $33 million since Christie took over as chairman in late November. That's a new fundraising record for the first four and a half months of a new RGA chairman's tenure.

Obama on a ‘Stinkburger’ budget: Republicans released their 2015 budget proposal, written by Rep. Paul Ryan, on Tuesday. They could vote on it sometime next week.

President Obama didn’t have very nice things to say about it during a stop in at the University of Michigan, where he talked about his own proposal to raise the minimum wage before heading to Chicago to raise money for Senate Democrats.

The Ryan proposal, like previous budgets authored by Ryan, is called the “Pathway to Prosperity.” It would cut more than $5 trillion in spending in the coming years, drastically reform Medicare from a “fee for service” to a “premium support” program, change the face of Medicaid and impose cuts to direct social services. But it would balance the federal budget within 10 years. It’s has zero chance of becoming law in this political climate and with Democrats in charge of the Senate and the White House.

But that didn’t stop Republicans from proposing it or Obama from seizing on it.

“If they tried to sell this sandwich at Zingerman’s (an Ann Arbor sandwich shop where Obama had just gotten a Reuben), they’d have to call it the Stinkburger or the Meanwich,” the President said.

Related: Paul Ryan’s budget would cut $5.1 trillion, seek balance in ten years

Related: Democrats to focus on Ryan budget in 2014

The Selfie Truth: Big Papi “has a relationship” with Samsung. Some people are bummed that Samsung is so sneaky as to engineer product placement into real life and may have had something to do with the still very cool moment when David Ortiz hugged the President into a selfie Tuesday. Here’s an argument to get over it: If you don't want corporate sponsors sneaking into your organic fun, there's a strong argument you shouldn't be engaging with professional sports or movies. We’re shocked that a professional ballplayer would take an opportunity to help a corporation sell something. Shocked.  To wit: that Nike. How DARE it put its swoosh on people’s shoes and ruin an otherwise perfectly pure experience at the ballpark.

Related: Red Sox Nation converges on the White House

Weird overnight: Clinton and aliens and Palin and Putin

Bill Clinton was on Jimmy Kimmel’s show, where he talked about how as President he looked into the Roswell alien conspiracy theory and how he wouldn’t be surprised if aliens appeared one day. He also said that as a vegan, he really misses hard cheese.

Meanwhile, over on Jimmy Fallon’s “Tonight Show,” Sarah Palin did a schtick where Fallon dressed up as Putin, and she and he made fun of the situation in Ukraine.

What we’re watching today:

The CIA and torture: The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence is expected to vote behind closed doors on that long-awaited controversial report on the CIA’s torture programs after 9/11.

U.S. created Cuba version of Twitter: It’s like “Argo” meets “The Social Network,” but in real life and set in Havana. The Washington Post runs this AP story on how the U.S. government apparently created a special Twitter-like social media platform to sow dissent in Cuba.

Olympians and Paralympians to the White House

The President and first lady will host members of the U.S. teams and delegations from the 2014 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games at the White House.

Hillary Clinton and the Women in the World Summit

Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde are joining Tina Brown's fifth annual Women in the World Summit.

soundoff (40 Responses)
  1. Bill from GA

    Money in politics is only effective because so many are so uninformed.

    Try getting your news from many sources, and you can tell when the ads are lying. They are already doing that in Georgia, against Michelle Nunn.

    And if the zillionaires see their $100 million campaigns failing, they may quit throwing their money away so readily. Especially when it makes them the laughing-stock of America. (How many Koch Bros and Sheldon Adelson candidates won?? Buncha LOOSERS!! Real Funny!!)

    April 3, 2014 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  2. Sniffit

    The fact is this: Where money is involved, the quid pro quo is inherent and implicit in the transaction. Period.

    The conservatives on the Court deliberately formulated an overly narrow conceptualization of what constitutes "quid pro quo" in order to pretend that, for example, [Plutocrat] giving $100M to the [insert party] to be spread throughout the country to its various candidates somehow, magically, doesn't carry with it the implication of "we'll scratch your back if you scratch ours." Thus, the narrow concept of "quid pro quo" used in this SCOTUS decision is nonsense. That campaign donation money is universally perceived and understood by every single person in this country to have made it possible for that candidate to win their election. It's like the conservatives on the Court live in a different reality if they think otherwise.

    And you know what? That newly elected candidate DESPERATELY WANTS THE FAVOR TO BE REPEATED NEXT TIME. Guess how he convinces [Plutocrat] to repeat that kind of donation. Guess.

    April 3, 2014 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  3. Sniffit

    I'm wondering.... With this ruling will we now be electing Kings, Queens and Emperors or will they still be called Presidents??"

    I believe the word you are looking for is PUPPETS.

    April 3, 2014 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  4. Rick McDaniel

    The most damaging thing to good politics in my lifetime, has been the media being bought out by the Democratic Party, and networks like CNN becoming political propagandists, instead of news organizations.

    The Democratic Party is becoming a dictatorship, overall, with Obama as their first real dictator.

    April 3, 2014 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
  5. Sniffit

    "I'm wondering.... With this ruling will we now be electing Kings, Queens and Emperors or will they still be called Presidents??"

    I believe the word you are looking for is PUPPETS.

    April 3, 2014 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  6. just saying

    Sniffit
    I believe the word you are looking for is PUPPETS.
    -–

    obama sure does jump and jerk every time his union controllers pull those strings!

    April 3, 2014 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  7. Wake Up People! Many Rivers to cross.....

    Thanks Sniffitt!!

    April 3, 2014 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  8. Anthony

    Anonymous, Republicans will be doing more fund-raising too. Republicans will spend more time raising money for their anti-Obamacare ads, since that is the only issue they are running on. As usual, you will have no objection to Republicans engaging in the same behavior that you attack Democrats for.

    April 3, 2014 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  9. just asking

    why should people be subjected to limits if unions aren't subjected to limits??? there was talk about a rich liberal california donor that would contribute $100 million to the democrats if they pushed the climate change hoax. suddenly the democrats in the senate are up all night talking about what? climate change. and you have sniffit in here talking about puppets? look no further than the democrat party and their climate change hoax and $100 million from this guy in california.

    April 3, 2014 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  10. Malory Archer

    just saying

    Sniffit
    I believe the word you are looking for is PUPPETS.
    -–

    obama sure does jump and jerk every time his union controllers pull those strings!

    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    Oh, you mean the millions upon millions of individual people who donated a hundred dollars or less to his campaign? Yeah, he shouldn't listen to THEM – he should listen to the handful of deep-pocketed individuals who can match those millions of proles with their piddly pocket change, because after all, THEY have more money so THEY'RE above reproach!

    April 3, 2014 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  11. Sniffit

    "The most damaging thing to good politics in my lifetime, has been the media being bought out by the Democratic Party, and networks like CNN becoming political propagandists, instead of news organizations. "

    The most damaging thing to good politics in my lifetime, has been the media being bought out by the ADVERTISING INDUSTRY, and networks like CNN becoming black holes of false equivalencies, fact avoidance and controversy manufacture, instead of news organizations.

    FIFY

    Believe me, Captain Conservative, you'd like them even less if they were actually doing their jobs and producing real, informative journalism.

    April 3, 2014 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  12. Sniffit

    "why should people be subjected to limits if unions aren't subjected to limits???"

    They are. They were just as subject to the limits at issue in Citizens United as corporations were. They are just as subject to all of the rules as corporations. You're clearly in the midst of a very severe delusion if you think unions aren't subject to limits just like everyone else.

    April 3, 2014 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  13. smith

    @Malory- You might want to google major donors to the democrat party. The dems are on take just like the repubs.

    April 3, 2014 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  14. Wake Up People! Many Rivers to cross.....

    I'm so sick of hearing how bad unions are. Since when is it a bad thing to have job security and make a living wage? Unions help the common person, Super Pacs help the rich. Poor Henry Ford must be rolling over in his grave right now...

    April 3, 2014 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  15. Rudy NYC

    Sniffit

    "why should people be subjected to limits if unions aren't subjected to limits???"

    They are. They were just as subject to the limits at issue in Citizens United as corporations were. They are just as subject to all of the rules as corporations. You're clearly in the midst of a very severe delusion if you think unions aren't subject to limits just like everyone else.
    --------------------
    If anything, the ruling frees individuals from having to follow the rules that unions must still adhere to.

    April 3, 2014 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
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