By Associate Professor Justin Levitt
This op-ed originally appeared on Politico.
On Wednesday, the Supreme Court struck down a set of federal campaign finance limits. Some immediately bemoaned the ruling as another step toward plutocracy. But here’s a striking side effect: More than a few high rollers have not yet noticed that they just got bumped outside the velvet rope.
The final result in McCutcheon v. FEC was not the apocalyptic ruling some anticipated. Leading up to Wednesday’s opinion, there was no shortage of end-of-days soothsaying. Blame the court’s 2010 Citizens United decision, which apparently recalibrated the rhetorical stakes for this type of case.
The court’s actual ruling undershot the hype. It left intact the same legal approach in place since the 1970s. The court used to look very skeptically at limits on independent spending (by organizations like super PACs), and left more regulatory latitude for limits on gifts directly to parties and candidates (and groups that donate directly to parties and candidates). It does still.
Read the complete op-ed.