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Baltimore, Dec. 8 – The Supreme Court’s most recent decision allowing more big money into our elections, April’s McCutcheon case, allowed $24.8 million in additional campaign spending by megadonors, according to new information released today by Maryland PIRG
By analyzing donor data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics, Maryland PIRG found that 510 large donors surpassed the $123,200 aggregate limit on giving to all federal candidates and committees struck down by the Court in McCutcheon. Their spending above the limit totaled $24.8 million. An earlier projection by Maryland PIRG and Demos found that the decision will ultimately cause $1 billion in increased spending through the 2020 elections.
“The Court’s wrong-headed decision in McCutcheon specifically empowered a tiny group of megadonors – those with the ability to spend more than a hundred thousand dollars on an election,” said Emily Scarr, Director of Maryland PIRG. “We should be working to lift up the voices of ordinary Americans, not making it even easier for large donors to drown out everybody else.”
In addition to amending the Constitution to overturn Citizens United and McCutcheon, and allow for limits on the influence of megadonors and Super PACs, more must be done to empower ordinary citizens to play a more active role in our elections. Fortunately, there are successful, proven models to support small donors so that their voices play a more central role in our democracy, such as providing tax credits and public matching funds for small donations.
For example, in New York City’s 2013 city council campaigns, small donors were responsible for 61% of participating candidates’ contributions, when funds from a matching program are included. In 2009, all but two of the 51 winning candidates participated in the small donor program, showing that candidates are able to raise the money they need to win without looking for large-dollar contributions. In Maryland, Montgomery County established a similar problem in fall 2014. The federal Government By the People Act, sponsored by Maryland Congressman John Sarbanes, would institute a similar system for Congressional elections.
“There’s no question that recent Supreme Court decisions, like McCutcheon, have tipped the scales of political influence even further to benefit the wealthy,” said Congressman John Sarbanes (D-Md.). “To fight this growing inequality, we need to empower everyday voters with a small-donor fundraising system that competes with big-money special interests and helps make the voices of the American people heard.”
“It’s hard for most people to afford to give even a hundred dollars to a candidate they support, much less a thousand,” said Scarr. “But donors who can, and do, give in large denominations played a decisive role in our Senate race.”
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