WASHINGTON (AP) — Republicans call the Supreme Court's latest ruling on campaign donations a victory for free speech. Democrats say it's more like a win for the wealthy.
Either way, it's likely to benefit the two major political parties and their candidates for Congress, who are now able to seek donations from deep-pocketed contributors who can give more without running afoul of the law.
The court "has once again reminded Congress that Americans have a constitutional First Amendment right to speak and associate with political candidates and parties of their choice," Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said Wednesday after the court struck down a limit on the amount donors may give to candidates, party committees and political action committees combined.
He added that the court's ruling makes it clear that it is the "right of the individual, and not the prerogative of Congress, to determine how many candidates and parties to support."
Yet two Senate Democrats told a news conference the ruling was another in a string of decisions by a conservative court majority that strengthens the ability of wealthy donors to have an impact on politics. "It advantages wealthy people over everybody else," Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said.
Said Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., "We see the Supreme Court behaving in a way that would be matched if the five conservative judges made it a strategy to go off and sit in a room by themselves and decide how best to implement the Republican agenda and then came out and did it."
The court's 5-4 ruling was a fresh declaration that many limits on big-money contributions violate the givers' free-speech rights, continuing a steady erosion of the restrictions under Chief Justice John Roberts. The biggest of those rulings was the 2010 decision in the Citizens United case that lifted restrictions on independent spending by corporations and labor unions.