Court's Decision Will Encourage Joint Fundraising Committees

The U.S. Supreme Court has struck down limits on how much a single individual can give in total to candidates and parties. The ruling could give wealthy donors even more influence in elections.

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PETER OVERBY, BYLINE: I'm Peter Overby. After the decision came down yesterday, I talked with three of Washington's top campaign-finance lawyers. Two of them are in private practice, the third one used to be - representing politicians, political committees, corporations and wealthy donors; that is those who will be affected by the ruling. And they all agreed.

ROBERT KELNER: The main effect of this decision is that it's going to encourage the development of super joint fundraising committees.

OVERBY: Robert Kelner has a client base that tends toward the conservative. These joint fundraising committees have been popular for years, but not like they're going to be. Kelner predicts that party leaders and lawmakers will rush to start their own joint fundraising committees, and that will tip the scales of power.

KELNER: I think it'll be another way that the leadership and committee chairs assert themselves over their colleagues.

OVERBY: Which, in turn, might be bad news for the national parties.

KELNER: There's already been a tremendous shift of power away from the national parties to outside groups like 501(c)(4) organizations and SuperPACs. This could be another development that redirects power away from the parties, to candidates.

OVERBY: Larry Noble is with the Campaign Legal Center, which argues for more controls on political money. He's also been in private practice and was general counsel to the Federal Election Commission.

LARRY NOBLE: What we're going to see, I think, is just much more aggressiveness on the part of fundraisers and contributors.

OVERBY: Who are now liberated from the obscure but important aggregate limit. Noble also sees another, broader impact.

NOBLE: In sui generis in this case, the court has shown an absolute lack of understanding, or a lack of caring, about the reality of politics and what goes on in this country.

OVERBY: Both cases say the only legitimate purpose in regulating political money is to prevent the most overt quid pro quo corruption, or the appearance of it. They also say that using money to get access in Washington is OK.

NOBLE: It's a very narrow view of what democracy is about, and I think that's going to have an effect on the general public.

OVERBY: But before that happens - or doesn't - McCutcheon is going to have an effect on wealthy donors.

KEN GROSS: Well, the wallets of many of my clients are already rattling. This is going to be a costly decision for high-end donors.

OVERBY: Ken Gross represents donors, corporations and politicians of both parties. He says that ideological donors may not have liked the aggregate limit, but more pragmatic donors wanted that excuse to turn down a fundraising pitch.

GROSS: You know, at least it kept things somewhat under control.

OVERBY: He's telling his clients those days are over.

GROSS: The party committees and all the other groups can jump in with both feet, without worrying about a donor being maxed out.

OVERBY: The Supreme Court has deprived them of that polite way to say no. Peter Overby, NPR News, Washington.

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