High Court Strikes Down Overall Limits On Political Contributions

Apr 3, 2014
Originally published on April 3, 2014 6:53 am
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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

We're also following this news. The Supreme Court has struck down another piece of decades-old campaign finance law. This time, the court eliminated the cap on how much individuals can donate at any single election cycle. There are still limits to how much you can give to any one candidate or political action committee. But there's no limit anymore on the total amount you may spread around, if you want to.

This ruling came after the court opened the door to unlimited spending by corporations and unions. And we start our coverage with NPR's Nina Totenberg.

NINA TOTENBERG, BYLINE: The court's decision left in ruins most of the reforms adopted by Congress beginning 40 years ago, to curb corruption. And while the conservative court majority left some reform provisions intact, there were hints more would be on the chopping block soon.

The decision erased the cap on the total amount of money that individual donors can contribute to candidates and parties in each election cycle. Until yesterday, the aggregate limit was $123,000. Now, there is no limit. Writing for the court majority, Chief Justice John Roberts acknowledged that big donors may have more influence. But he said that is not enough to justify limiting their right to give the maximum contribution to as many candidates as they wish. Any limits imposed must be aimed at preventing something close to bribery, he said, a quid pro quo.

Speaking for the defenders, Justice Stephen Breyer took the unusual step of announcing his opinion from the bench. Where money calls the tune, the voices of the people will not be heard, he said, and a cynical public can lose interest in political participation altogether.

Nina Totenberg, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.