After McCutcheon, New RNC Challenge to Soft Money Rules

On the day the Supreme Court decided McCutcheon, I wrote in Slate:

Third and most dramatically, the court seems to open the door for a future challenge to what remains of the McCain-Feingold law: the ban on large, “soft money” contributions collected by political parties. These contributions were banned because it had become clear that political parties were becoming conduits for access between elected officials and big donors. Today Roberts rejects ingratiation and access as a problem, and says that this funnel of significant money to parties could serve the purpose of strengthening political parties and thus be a good thing. He writes: “When donors furnish widely distributed support within all applicable base limits, all members of the party or supporters of the cause may benefit, and the leaders of the party or cause may feel particular gratitude. That grati­tude stems from the basic nature of the party system, in which party members join together to further common political beliefs, and citizens can choose to support a party because they share some, most, or all of those beliefs. … To recast such shared interest, standing alone, as an opportunity for quid pro quo corruption would dramatically expand government regulation of the politi­cal process.”

Well it did not take long:

Members of the Republican National Committee gathering in Memphis, Tennessee, for their spring meeting are set to join a lawsuit seeking to strike down campaign finance limits and free the GOP to spend unlimited money on get-out-the-vote efforts.

Republicans have long argued that “soft money” spending limits imposed on political parties by the Federal Election Commission in the aftermath of the 2002 McCain-Feingold law have punished the RNC and state political parties while letting pro-Democrat unions spend unlimited money to organize voters.

The lawsuit specifically will ask the courts to allow national and state parties to form super PACs that can raise and spend unlimited amounts on election efforts, something the FEC has prohibited.

“We think this will put the final nail in the coffin of the McCain-Feingold law,” Louisiana Republican Party Chairman Roger Villere said in an interview.

“If we win this suit against the federal government, it will allow our national committee and our state parties to have some freedom not to be constrained by campaign finance rules that hold back us but not the Democrats,” he said.

Republicans have long complained that Democrats have been getting unrestricted election help from allies such as teachers and public employees unions.

The lawsuit is the brainchild of former Indiana RNC member Jim Bopp, a constitutional lawyer who devised the legal strategy that dealt a body blow to McCain-Feingold in the Supreme Court with the 2010 Citizens United decision.

(H/t Ron Collins).

 

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