McCutcheon’s Winners And Losers

Cillizza tallies them up, counting joint fundraising committees as among the big winners:

These organizations allow a donor to write a single check that is then split up between a handful of candidates/committees. So, if you wrote a $50,000 check, for example, the first $32,400 would go to the national party committee (that’s the current federal donation limit for a single year) and the remaining $17,600 would be parceled out in $2,600 increments to candidates. Prior to the McCutcheon ruling, an individual could give only $123,200 in a single election cycle: $48,600 to candidates (which breaks down to 18 “max out” candidate donations) and $74,600 to federal party committees. That limit is now gone. “An individual may now make as many ‘max out’ contributions to candidates in an election cycle, and to parties and PACs in a calendar year, as he or she wishes,” according to a summary of the opinion from the political law wing of Perkins Coie. The joint fundraising committee will almost certainly be the preferred vehicle that candidates and party committees set up to collect — and disburse — big checks from wealthy individuals.

Harry Enten runs the numbers:

First, the parties will become more powerful. Over the past few elections, most people looking to get around donation limits gave tons of money to Super PACs. Now contributors can ingratiate themselves with a party by giving directly. Along the same lines, major bundlers (e.g. those who have a habit of getting ambassadorships) will gain more pull.

Second, very few donors hit the limits set out by the Federal Election Committee (FEC) in 2012. Per Open Secrets, only 2,972 donors maxed out to committees, and only 591 maxed out to candidates. Maxed-out donors leaned about 3 to 2 toward giving to Republican candidates. Only 646 donors hit the limit on both committees and candidates. These numbers, however, probably slightly underestimate the GOP advantage going forward, because top Super PAC donations leaned 2 to 1 toward Republicans in 2012, according to the Sunlight Foundation.

Noting that the ruling empowers the biggest of the big donors, Lee Drutman mulls what that implies:

Of the top 1,000 donors in 2012, 580 gave at least 90 percent of their party and candidate contributions to Republicans, as compared to 326 who gave at least 90 percent of their party and candidate contributions to Democrats. (This doesn’t count super PAC money, since super PACs are technically non-partisan.) Given that these donors will be able to give more money to candidates and parties directly, Republicans are likely to have an advantage.

Second, they are far more likely to come from the financial sector than any other sector. Just over one third of these donors work in the financial sector. No other sector comes close. This means Wall Street and Greenwich billionaires are likely to become even more important players in funding elections.

Responding to the notion that the ruling might help the GOP in its war on rogue “outside groups,” Weigel notes that these groups don’t seem too concerned:

Funny thing: None of the outside groups seems bothered by the decision. “This is a great day for the first amendment, and a great day for political speech,” said Club for Growth President Chris Chocola in a statement. “With Citizens United and now McCutcheon, the Supreme Court has continued to restrict the role of the federal government in limiting and regulating speech.” …

Americans for Prosperity, which has been pounding Democratic incumbents with TV ads all year, struck the same chords. “We always welcome more participation, more voices, and more activity,” said spokesman Levi Russell. “Our mission and focus is distinct from any political party or typical PAC—so this decision is not likely to impact us.”

Finally, Scott Lemieux considers the ruling a blow for Average Joe:

As Ari Berman of The Nation points out, there is a particularly cruel irony about the Roberts Court’s attack on campaign finance reform in cases like McCutcheon and Citizens United. On the one hand, the Court is making it nearly impossible for Congress or state legislatures to reduce the influence of money in politics, holding restrictions unconstitutional even in cases where they don’t suppress speech at all. On the other hand, the Court has been extremely hostile to the voting rights. On the one hand, they’ve upheld vote suppression at the state level even when these restrictions are directed at concededly non-existent problems. On the other hand, they’ve eviscerated the Voting Rights Act with an opinion that finds no discernible basis in the text of the Constitution or the Court’s precedents. To the Roberts Court, money should talk as loudly as possible while ordinary voters can take a walk.