Thursday, April 03, 2014

Supreme Court decision against political donation limits won't affect Ohio -- at least for now

  FoxNews, along with the others, yesterday morning reported the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling that limits on the total amount of money individuals can give to candidates, political parties and political action committees are unconstitutional -- splitting the court's liberal and conservative justices – and “being  hailed by Republican congressional leaders as a First Amendment victory, removing the cap on contributions, which was set at $123,200 for 2014. It does not change limits, though, on individual contributions for president or Congress, currently set at $2,600 per election. (See McCutcheon v. FEC, 12-536 )

  Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the majority opinion, “Money in politics may at times seem repugnant to some, but so too does much of what the First Amendment vigorously protects… If the First Amendment protects flag burning, funeral protests and Nazi parades – despite the profound offense such spectacles cause – it surely protects political campaign speech despite popular opinion.”

   Justice Stephen Breyer, writing for the dissenting side, though, described the ruling as a major blow to vital campaign finance rules and took the unusual step of reading a summary of his opinion from the bench saying the “decision eviscerates our nation’s campaign finance laws.”

  A Cleveland Plain Dealer article, however, has some observers saying the decision won’t have much effect on Ohio in the short term.

  Ohio State University law professor Dan Tokaji said the ruling in the short term won’t have much effect on Ohio elections or campaign finance laws.

  “In the 5-4 decision," the Plain Dealers' article said, "the Supreme Court struck down on free-speech grounds a federal law limiting how much money an individual can give in total to federal candidates, political parties and political action committees. That federal cap is currently set at $123,200, including $48,600 specifically to candidates’ campaigns. But Ohio doesn’t have similar overall limits on donations to candidates, parties or PACs. The state does restrict how much money a person can give to an individual legislative or statewide candidate, but that kind of limit wasn’t affected by Wednesday’s ruling.

  “But over time, he said, this ruling could lead to challenges to Ohio’s individual donation limits. That’s because the Supreme Court under Chief Justice John Roberts has stated in this decision and others that the government can only restrict political contributions when the donation appears to be outright bribery”.

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