Millionaires win

An estimated $7 billion were spent during the 2012 election cycle. This huge number of campaign contributions will now multiply thanks to a U.S. Supreme Court decision, contaminating the democratic process with even more money. The high court removed yesterday the maximum total amount that an individual can donate during an election cycle—which was established thanks to the historic 1974 decision Buckley v. Valeo. That maximum limit was $123,000. Today, because of the ruling, that number can be up to $3.25 million or even twice that, if someone supports both parties.

Buckley established the idea that a political campaign contribution is speech protected by the First Amendment. At the same time, it set limits on the amount that a candidate can receive and the amount a political donor can give, all to prevent corruption or its appearance. The current chief justice of the Supreme Court, John Roberts, said that this concern does not exist for the conservative majority of judges. Therefore, the decision eliminated the limit previously imposed on donors.

This ruling gives more power to contributors of political money who have interests at stake in the government’s decisions. It also hurts the average voter, who does not have funds to exert influence and compete against the wealthy.

Given this situation, it is up to Congress to increase transparency in how political funds circulate, so that voters know in time, before the election, who gave money to a candidate and how much. However, this will be tough as long as one of the two parties opposes this clarity and supports bringing more money into politics. The Republican National Committee was one of the plaintiffs in this case to eliminate donation limits.

With this ruling, the Supreme Court has dealt another blow to the legal precedent that imposed some sanity on political contributions. This will discourage political participation, as the balance is tipped increasingly in favor of millionaires.