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.”
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.
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.
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.