McCutcheon argument recap: How is political influence bought?

by - October 08, 2013

Erin E. Murphy, a Washington lawyer for a big-money Republican donor from Alabama and for the Republican National Committee, tried energetically to show that there are no real risks of corruption in the federal system now, that Congress has done enough to end abuse.  Bobby R. Burchfield, a Washington lawyer speaking for the Republican leader of the U.S. Senate, made a fleeting plea for the Court to impose the strictest constitutional test on contribution limits.  And U.S. Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli, Jr., made an impassioned plea for campaign ceilings on the premise that, otherwise, federal politics would flirt with total domination by fewer than five hundred wealthy donors. But for every legal thrust by a lawyer, the Justices countered with questions about how political influence is actually purchased, and whether this was a problem at all and, if so, what was the nature of that problem and what might be done to fix it.  At times, it sounded as if it were a debate that one might hear in Congress on potential new campaign finance legislation, rather than a courtroom debate over the limits of the First Amendment as applied to campaign contributions. Will the Court start all over with the issue of limiting campaign contributions, as it did four years ago with independent campaign spending, opening the money floodgates further?  Maybe, but there was almost nothing heard in Court on Tuesday that would suggest any such boldness.

Argument recap: How is political influence bought? : SCOTUSblog

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