WASHINGTON — Big campaign money just got even bigger.
Thanks to Wednesday’s U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning laws on certain donor restrictions, legions of American voters, already angry at a distant, dysfunctional political system, might feel even further alienated from the process. Or they’ll have new opportunities to make it better.
In other words, there’ll be an impact from the ruling that lifted limits on how much donors can give in a single election cycle. Whether you like or hate the fallout depends on where you sit politically.
“This is a terrific decision. It reinforces First Amendment values,” said Hans von Spakovsky, senior legal fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation and a former Federal Election Commission member.
“This decision may be more good news for American oligarchs, but it is bad news for voters,” said Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin, D-Ill.
The practical effect on campaigns themselves might be minimal, as veterans of campaign wars noted that money is not an automatic guarantee of success.
Money’s influence on campaigns is often most pronounced in two ways: It allows well-known politicians, usually incumbents, to build up big war chests, thus scaring off many who are intimidated by the sums, and it permits wealthy candidates or those with substantial donor networks to gain a decisive edge over citizens without such advantages.
That’s why, for instance, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is being mentioned these days as a viable 2016 presidential candidate, even though he last ran for office 12 years ago; that, and the political credibility that having a family presidential lineage confers.
But there’s evidence that those who pour millions into campaigns don’t succeed.
“What this decision means is a lot of crazy people are going to spend a lot of money and have no impact,”said Peter Kelly, a former Democratic National Committee finance chairman and treasurer. “These are often highly motivated people with extreme positions.”
In 2012, for instance, Las Vegas casino magnate Sheldon Adelson spent an estimated $15 million to boost the unsuccessful candidacy of Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich.