TOPICS > Politics

Supreme Court eases restrictions on campaign cash

BY Domenico Montanaro, Terence Burlij and Simone Pathe  April 3, 2014 at 9:04 AM EST
Joan Stallard (left) of Washington, D.C. discusses the Supreme Court's decision on campaign finance reform Wednesday as Scott Dorn (right) of Washington, D.C. looks on. Photo by Rod Lamkey/Getty Images

Joan Stallard (left) of Washington, D.C. discusses the Supreme Court’s decision on campaign finance reform Wednesday as Scott Dorn (right) of Washington, D.C. looks on. Photo by Rod Lamkey/Getty Images

The Morning Line

Today in the Morning Line:

  • The fallout from Wednesday’s Supreme Court decision
  • Another shooting at Fort Hood
  • Michelle Nunn launches first TV ad
  • Cruz’s record-setting book deal

What the Supreme Court’s campaign finance ruling means – mo’ money, mo’ problems?: The Roberts-led Supreme Court took one more step to loosen campaign finance laws in another 5-4 decision Wednesday. The ruling lifts the cap on the overall total one person can contribute in an election cycle. Previously, between candidates, committees and PACs, a donor could give $123,200 total. Now they can contribute as much as they want. Limits remain in place on how much a donor can give to a single candidate ($5,200 per cycle – $2,600 primary, $2,600 general), party ($32,400 national party, $10,000 state party) or PAC ($5,000). But a donor could conceivably spread the wealth and give millions. It’s not going to mean much for individual candidates, but now national parties won’t have to worry about a donor maxing out. The real boon could be for state parties that are always strapped for cash. A wealthy donor could give the max to every state party, which would be $500,000, more than quadruple the previous overall limit. Want a politician to know your name? Think about how many times these big donors’ names will pop up in FEC filings now. “How many donors will seek to fully exploit the McCutcheon ruling is difficult to predict,” writes Nicholas Confessore of the New York Times. “The existing cap was poorly enforced by the Federal Election Commission: During the 2012 election, according to a study by the Sunlight Foundation, as many as 600 donors appeared to exceed the aggregate contribution cap, most of them Republican donors.” Politico’s James Hohmann, meanwhile, notes that the immediate impact of the ruling on this year’s midterm elections will be minimal.

The biggest potential consequence might not be this ruling itself but where the court might go from here. It did not strike down the individual contribution limit, but it also didn’t make it untouchable. Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said Wednesday on MSNBC that he was not in favor of any donor limits, “but that’s not what this case was about.” Proponents of the ruling argued that this would lead to more transparency, but, in reality, it’s just going to lead to more money. Before, donors could give without limit to Super PACs and anonymously to their sister “educational” arms that run as many political ads as the other. Nothing changes that. The ruling essentially boiled down to whether or not you think money corrupts. The majority said no, the dissent said yes.

Fort Hood shooting: President Barack Obama found himself in an eerily familiar situation Wednesday reacting to a shooting at Fort Hood that left four people dead and more than a dozen wounded. It is the same Texas base where 13 people died after a gunman opened fire in 2009. “Any shooting is troubling. Obviously this reopens the pain of what happened at Fort Hood five years ago. We know these families. We know their incredible service to our country and the sacrifices that they make,” the president said during a stop in Chicago. “We are going to do everything we can to make sure that the community at Fort Hood has what it needs to deal with the current situation, but also any potential aftermath.” The Dallas Morning News reports “the gunman was being evaluated for PTSD, but a diagnosis had not been confirmed,” according to the senior officer on the base, Gen. Mark Milley. While the initial focus will center on the investigation of the shooting and the background of the gunman, the episode is also sure to raise questions about mental-health issues experienced by those who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, an issue that is not often talked about after more than a decade of war that has stretched the country’s all-volunteer military. A recent Washington Post/Kaiser Family Foundation poll found that 31 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans said the wars caused them mental and emotional problems. More than four in ten service members reported having outbursts of anger and 45 percent said they experienced relationship problems with their spouse or partner. In 2012, there were 349 military suicides, which outpaced combat fatalities in Afghanistan that year. As the wars wind down, these are grim statistics that political leaders and military officials collectively will have to confront. Ironically, the president noted Wednesday that, for the first time since the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan began, no soldiers were killed in either conflict in the month of March.

2014 watch – Nunn’s first ad: Watching the latest spot to hit the airwaves in Georgia, you might not know it’s from a Democrat. Michelle Nunn’s first TV ad touts her experience leading former President George H.W. Bush’s Points of Light Foundation, completely ignores her party affiliation, and plays up her outsider bonafides. That’s hardly shocking. Nunn was hit with $150,000 in attack ads tying her to the president’s health care law earlier this week. Republicans are no doubt happy that outside spending has forced Nunn on the air before the primary, but having outraised her GOP competitors at the end of last year, Nunn looks to be in a strong position as the Republicans continue duking it out for the nomination (exhibit A). And as The Atlanta Journal Constitution’s Daniel Malloy reminds us, a decent portion of Nunn’s fundraising haul is earmarked for primary spending. The primary is May 20. … In the Pennsylvania governor’s race, Democrat Tom Wolf looks like the favorite now, continuing to lead the primary, 33 percent to 7 percent, over Rep. Allyson Schwartz, a Franklin & Marshall poll finds. Wolf is a former state revenue secretary under Ed Rendell (D) and owner of a kitchen cabinet-making company.

2016 watch – Coming to a CPAC table near you…: Sen. Ted Cruz is likely to pull in a whopping $1.5 million advance for an untitled, unwritten memoir, The Washington Examiner’s Paul Bedard reports. That would be more than Sarah Palin, who got $1.25 million for her book. It’s a reminder that the cult of Cruz is very real with conservatives. Iowa, here he comes… But it makes us wonder: if 2016 doesn’t work out, if he does decide to run, he’s probably a short-timer in the Senate.

LINE ITEMS

  • Grandpa joke of the day: “If this all sounds familiar, it should be familiar because it was their economic plan in the 2012 campaign. It was their economic plan in 2010. It’s like that movie ‘Groundhog Day,’ it’s not funny. If they tried– if they tried to sell this sandwich at Zingermans, they’d have to call it ‘the Stinkburger.’– Or ‘the Meanwich.’” — President Obama on Rep. Paul Ryan’s latest budget.
  • Billionaire conservative Charles Koch writes in a Wall Street Journal op-ed Thursday that his engagement in the political process is a fight to restore the principles of a free society.
  • An NPR poll shows the health-care law at 47 percent support, 51 percent opposed. President Obama’s approval is 46 percent, and Democrats lead by just one point, 44 percent to 43 percent, on the generic congressional ballot. Because of the demographics of a midterm and the favorable House map for Republicans, Democrats likely need a bigger lead than that to make a dent in the House.
  • Thanks to Wednesday’s court decision, big donors will no longer be able to say they’re maxed out when candidates come knocking at the door.
  • The Senate is expected to have a final vote on jobless benefits as soon as Thursday. But it is not likely to be taken up by the Republican-led House.
  • The Senate Intelligence Committee is expected to vote Thursday to request the White House declassify its 300-page executive summary of Bush-era CIA interrogation tactics. The Washington Post reported earlier this week that the Democratic-led committee found not much useful information came of harsh interrogation tactics.
  • Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., says he probably won’t run for the Senate in 2016 if he runs for president.
  • Even if Congress isn’t moving forward on a minimum wage hike, states are. There are efforts in eight states to get referendums on the ballot this year.
  • Boston.com’s Zuri Berry reports that David Ortiz’s selfie with the president at Tuesday’s White House ceremony honoring the Boston Red Sox was orchestrated by Samsung, and not a spontaneous act.
  • The New York Times’ Monica Davey looks at Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s proposal for fixing the city’s underfunded pension plan that includes higher contributions from city workers and raising property taxes on residents.
  • Phoenix and Columbus, Ohio, are out of the running to host the 2016 Republican National Convention. Cincinnati, Cleveland, Dallas, Denver, Kansas City and Las Vegas are the remaining contenders.
  • Quinnipiac University’s National Thermometer finds that Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren is the American politician who currently generates the most heat among voters. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ranks second in the survey, while New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie dropped to ninth after placing first in January.
  • After steadily falling since December, Christie’s approval rating has stabilized at 51 percent, according to a Monmouth University/Asbury Park Press poll released Wednesday — but not because the internal report Christie’s administration commissioned exonerated him from the George Washington Bridge scandal. Only 30 percent found it a fair investigation.
  • Hotline’s Karyn Bruggeman explains why “black-and-white attacks” over the Affordable Care Act seen in the Senate landscape “fade to a muddled gray in the nation’s governors’ races.”
  • USA Today’s Susan Davis argues that the GOP’s decision to term-limit their chairmen has only made Congress more ineffective and enhanced the power of K Street.
  • Keep an eye on the Rundown blog for breaking news throughout the day, our home page for show segments, and follow @NewsHour for the latest.

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Questions or comments? Email Domenico Montanaro at dmontanaro-at-newshour-dot-org or Terence Burlij at tburlij-at-newshour-dot-org.

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