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The Source: Supreme Court's McCutcheon Ruling Is Blow To Campaign Finance Reform

Flickr user Adam Fagen (afagen)

This morning the Supreme Court came down on the side of Shaun McCutcheon to the collective exasperation of campaign finance reformers. McCutcheon, an Alabama millionaire who challenged the Federal Election Commission's limit on how much money a person can donate in the aggregate. You can find the majority opinion here.

The court took a narrow view on what constituted corruption, reinforcing their ruling in the 2010 Citizen United case, stating that only quid pro quo corruption could be considered. The amounts that can be contributed to individuals and groups was not affected. 

Campaign finance reformers were critical of the highest court's decision, which was a 5-4 split along ideological lines. They said it gave unfair advantage to the wealthy. Their opinion was shared by the minority on the court. You can find highlights from Justice Stephen Breyer's 30-page dissent here.

Money is considered speech in the United States and the free expression of speech is what McCutcheon argued he was fighting for. 


  • Sheila Krumholz, executive director for The Center for Responsive Politics
  • David Earley, counsel for the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University's Law School. David argued in a recent piece that this would likely be the outcome and that it was bad for Democracy. Read it here.

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Paul Flahive can be reached at Paul@tpr.org and on Twitter at @paulflahive