April 3rd, 2014
09:18 AM ET
8 years 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.”

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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. Tommy G

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

    Leftists that want to trample on a person's free speech and their right to support whatever political party they wish to support and the extent they wish to support it. Of course, now they will try to get laws that force people to be disclosed so the violent leftists can target them and their families and the people they support for attacks, physical and verbal. It is the way the criminal mob leftists operate, its the union thug mentality. If you are with us, you must be destroyed.

    Democrats and their far leftist agenda are a major threat to our freedoms and Constitution. Obamacare was just a small glimpse into the amount of damage they are willing bring down on this country and its people.

    April 3, 2014 09:30 am at 9:30 am |
  2. Lynda/Minnesota

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

    Yep. And no doubt candidates will start wearing their endorsements much in the same manner as those in our American multi-billion dollar sports arena's consistently find ways to promote their "endorsers". Not that this hadn't already began when GOP hopefuls went running to Vegas to kiss their newest kingmaker this past week.

    Never in my life did I ever imagine our SCOTUS would become a bought and paid for entity for the billionaires by the billionaires of the billionaires.

    To paraphrase Judge Roberts: Corporations are people and money talks.

    April 3, 2014 09:41 am at 9:41 am |
  3. Anthony

    Since Obamacare is the only issue the Republicans will be running on, unless you want to see ads against Obamacare around the clock on all channels, no.

    April 3, 2014 09:44 am at 9:44 am |

    To bad the rest of the country DOESNT agree!!!!!

    April 3, 2014 09:55 am at 9:55 am |
  5. jpmichigan

    We still continue the practice of BUYING an election, now with more money in the pot. I guess it will never happen that one running for political ,would run on his/her merits alone, instead of how much money they have to give to the political party.

    April 3, 2014 09:59 am at 9:59 am |
  6. guest

    The SCOTUS ruling has almost zero impact on federal elections. This ruling is aimed squarely at supporting just about every election at the state levels. Before you had to pick your federal candidates and a few state candidates and run with it, but now super rich corporations can donate to every single election candidate in the country. This ruling is aimed squarely at pushing new tea party people into primaries with outrageous attack campaigns, pyschology experiments to see what buttons can be pressed to get what reations, and major film talent to shoot sappy sensational commercials utilizing the psychology.

    We must get out and vote. Do not let these commercials convince you to shelter in place. The attack ads are going to try to drown out all other information, even our own thoughts. Do not hide in the corner, get out and vote against the conservative extremists. Eventually one of those neo con justices will pass away, and we need moderates in office to get the extremism out of the judicial branch.

    April 3, 2014 10:04 am at 10:04 am |
  7. YoonYoungJo

    Transparency on campaign donations all the way up the ladder. Not forcing all campaign donations to be listed and tracked has the potential to seriously harm democracy. I agree with the GOP in that regard. More transparency in regards to where donations came from. You should be able to track down every dollar to its roots.

    April 3, 2014 10:05 am at 10:05 am |
  8. Rudy NYC

    I think more money is a bad thing. It's getting so that we have a cold war of sorts being fought with political money, instead of weapons of war. So, I'm not surprised by the fact that yesterday's ruling from the SCOTUS was a result of a suit made by conservatives, specifically the RNC. Conservatives are badly outnumbered when it comes to the number of donors, which means that campaign donation limits puts them at a distinct disadvantage.

    Furthermore, since conservatives cannot pass the types of legislation they want through traditional means, they have turned to the courts to do the legislating for them. Prior to "Citzens United" case, the SCOTUS had overturned only two laws passed by the Congress in more than a hundred years. Suddenly, we have had two laws overturned in the last four, darn near three laws if you consider the ACA.

    April 3, 2014 10:11 am at 10:11 am |
  9. The REAL Truth...

    FOR SALE TO HIGHEST BIDDER: United States Government (legally now).

    April 3, 2014 10:14 am at 10:14 am |

    Why don't you just legalize BRIBERY, oh, you already did, thanks for nothing sc CROOKS!!!!

    April 3, 2014 10:15 am at 10:15 am |
  11. georgex9

    This is really a slap in the face of those who want one person one vote when such money can buy elections. Let's put it this way to the donor belongs the spoils.

    The Supreme Court further loosened restrictions on the amount of money that wealthy people can donate to political candidates. This can lead to television ads which can be misleading and repeated many times can sway many people based on emotion rather than rational reasoning. An abundance of these can be purchased with very wealthy rich donors. In other words the elections can be brought by the rich. This is a distortion of democracy and needs to be modified. Republican candidates who can benefit from this outcome ought to object to it also as a corruption of our government on moral grounds. Congress needs to revise campaign contribution laws. What the voters can do is not vote for the candidate that has the greatest campaign donations.

    April 3, 2014 10:19 am at 10:19 am |
  12. smith

    Get rid of tv, radio, and internet advertising for political issues and canidates.

    April 3, 2014 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  13. ThinkAgain - Don't like Congress? Get rid of the repub/tea bag majority.

    First Citizens United in 2010 – and we get the tea bags.
    Now it's midterm time again, and we get McCutcheon v. FEC.

    THIS is why the Dick had a heart attack and Georgie grew a boil the size of a cantaloupe on his face waiting for the results of the 2000 election: The gop wanted to own the Supreme Court to legalize the takeover of our country by corporations.

    Special shout-out to Nader and his ego for splitting the Dem vote.

    We still need to fight this by doing everything we can to get out the vote! We mobilized to get folks to sign up for Obamacare – we can mobilize them to get rid of the tea bag/gop majority in the House and solidify the Dem majority in the Senate.


    April 3, 2014 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  14. ThinkAgain - Don't like Congress? Get rid of the repub/tea bag majority.

    Unions have to disclose their contribution amounts and donor names; why not all these PACs?

    April 3, 2014 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  15. rs

    Transparency- certainly. If you wish to seek to influence the outcomes of elections, or to promote specific causes (say, like the Kochs and the XL pipeline), be honest and tell people. Who is behind the money is just as important in the metric of valuing the statement itself.
    On the money front, the amount of cash spent on the last Presidential election is staggering. One cannot help but wonder the positive impacts such volumes of money might have had if it had been applied to things like medical research; education; childhood nutrition; environmental clean-up and more.

    April 3, 2014 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  16. bobo

    All the money in the World cannot fix Obamacare.... This is what was Forced upon us........

    (Reuters) – As the first Obamacare enrollment period comes to a close, U.S. insurers are already anticipating the need to raise prices for 2015 and fear that it will put them at the center of the political blame game over President Barack Obama's healthcare law.

    The Obama administration declared victory on Tuesday over signing up more than 7 million people for this year, overcoming technology failures that stymied enrollment in the program's early weeks and Republican efforts to discredit it in the eyes of consumers.

    But insurers have already said that the first group of new enrollees under Obamacare, as the law is widely known, represent a higher rate of older and costlier members than hoped. To keep their health plans from losing money in the coming years, many expect monthly premium rates to rise by double-digit percentages in some parts of the country.

    April 3, 2014 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  17. rs

    ThinkAgain – Don't like Congress? Get rid of the repub/tea bag majority.

    Unions have to disclose their contribution amounts and donor names; why not all these PACs?
    As appalling as it is to the Right and their wealthy benefactors, Unions give political outlet to the ideas and opinions of the common American worker, and that is what horrifies the right about allowing unions to have the same power as the various Koch-fuelled "Americans for..." groups. And, yes, there should full disclosure for ads funded by union money- or anyone else.

    April 3, 2014 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  18. rs

    "Leftists that want to trample on a person's free speech and their right to support whatever political party they wish to support and the extent they wish to support it. "
    That's a really odd idea give the massive voter suppression actions taken by the GOP. Across GOP controlled states potentially millions of Americans have been stripped of their right to vote in the past two years. Specifically targeted are minorities, the youth, and the poor- all people the GOP is generally not supported by.

    April 3, 2014 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  19. rs


    Get rid of tv, radio, and internet advertising for political issues and canidates.
    Better- cap total spending at $500 k, then, no more!

    April 3, 2014 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  20. Rudy NYC

    Tommy G

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

    Leftists that want to trample on a person's free speech and their right to support whatever political party they wish to support and the extent they wish to support it. ... .... ....
    Actually, our nation's democracy loses. The RNC filed the suit that led to yesterday's SCOTUS decision. Republicans just simply could not keep up with the numbers of donors that Democrats could accumulate. So, instead of changing the law through conventional channels in Congress, Republicans have been using the SCOTUS to legislate for them from the bench.

    This cold war being fought with political money can end the only way that cold wars can end, with mutually assured destruction.

    April 3, 2014 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  21. Silence DoGood

    @Tommy G
    .......violent leftists can target them and their families and the people they support for attacks, physical and verbal. It is the way the criminal mob leftists operate, its the union thug mentality. If you are with us, you must be destroyed.
    Tea Party folks are on record advocating violence to bring down the progressive politicians and even kill people. On record. Not part your fantasy world. And after seeing some of the guns-and-racism rallies by the TP, I am appalled.

    April 3, 2014 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  22. Wake Up People! Many Rivers to cross.....

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

    Maybe Willard and Queen Anne have a chance to buy the WH after all.

    April 3, 2014 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  23. Rob Wood

    Now that the free speech of our job creators won't be restricted, maybe we can start moving this country back to the values it was founded on. Hopefully we can end this ridiculous idea of women being able to vote and get them back to keeping the nuclear family together. And maybe we can stop these felonious inner city thugs from voting too. And maybe we can finally stop handing money over to freeloading people and just watch them and their families starve to death like Jesus would have. And we can maybe finally get the Bible back into our schools and start making these kids worship the one true savior instead of eating ecstasy or bath salts or whatever. And I'm sure this will help us get another war started with someone. We're almost to the point where we don't have any war, I mean, ZERO troops died in combat last month. That's unacceptable. We have to keep bringing our freedom to the world.

    April 3, 2014 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  24. Sniffit

    TL;DR SCOTUS decision: "Green > Brown. Hope this helps you avoid Demographic Armageddon, fellow conservatives."

    April 3, 2014 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  25. Anonymous

    It is truly hilarious to hear all the Democrats whine about money in politics as Obama has spent more than half his time in office on the campaign fund raiser trail using taxpayer dollars to pay for all his expenses. Hundreds of millions of dollars of our money went to pay for Democrat fund raisers as the country goes deeper and deeper into debt.

    Obama refused public financing after saying he would take it. The first of his many, many lies. He then went on to raise record money. Now you have the Democrats saying they want to raise $1.5 BILLION for the 2016 campaign. I guess the cost of repeating all their lies has gone through the roof! And this doesn't include all the money we now know the Democrats were illegally funneling into these 'shadow campaigns'.

    As usual, if the Democrats and lefties are attacking people for something, you can be 110% sure the Democrats and lefties are engaged in that very same behavior. But the American people are now catching on to all your lies lefties thanks in large part to the Liar of the Year, Obama.

    April 3, 2014 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
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