Ray Laraja argues that Wednesday’s ruling in McCutcheon v. FEC “should not be evaluated by some imaginary gold standard of campaign finance rules, but by the current state of affairs.” He lists reasons why it is an improvement over the status quo. Number one:
Parties and party leaders control more money. Right now Super PACs are gaining an upper hand in the electoral system. The people running these Super PACs might be former party hacks but Super PACs are still less accountable to the broader party coalition, much less to voters who don’t know the affiliations of these Super PACs. By allowing a party to raise more money through joint committees and removing the aggregate limits that constrain them, the party leaders have more say in who runs for office. These party leaders typically support candidates who are not ideologues because they have a better shot at winning. If you prefer moderation and compromise in your politics, then you should prefer candidates getting their support from the party rather than issue groups.
Though he thinks the ruling was a huge mistake, Steven Hill hopes it will at least undermine Super PACs:
[E]ven as McCutcheon tips the playing field in favor of wealthy donors over ordinary citizens, it also in a perverse way levels the playing field for politicians, by allowing candidates and political parties to receive larger donations and thus giving them the chance to spend sums closer to what the super PACs do. Yes, it’s a corroded silver lining—kind of like allowing one gang of thugs to better compete against another gang of thugs: Each is partly in check, but the net result is more thuggery.
Some donors might still prefer to give to super PACs, since the law allows them to do so anonymously, while donors to candidates and parties must be fully identified. On the other hand, giving donations directly to campaigns and parties might be a more effective way of building good will with a prospective officeholder, so some deep-pocketed donors may find it more to their liking to give directly.
Jonathan Alter recalls the outsized impact Sheldon Adelson alone had on the 2012 presidential elections, through his Super PAC donations:
Reformers like to complain about the malign influence of money in politics. The real problem is big money in politics, and here a gap has opened between the parties. (I wrote about this issue, and about Adelson’s role in the 2012 campaign, in my book “The Center Holds.”) The average donation to Obama’s 2012 campaign was less than a hundred dollars, while the average donation to Mitt Romney was more than a thousand dollars, according to a Romney staffer. Adelson, the Koch brothers, and a few others took the game to a new level after the Citizens United case, in 2010. Currency trader George Soros contributed twenty-seven million dollars to try to elect John Kerry in 2004. Adelson spent more than three times as much in 2012.