Should wealth be permitted to amplify individuals' democratic participation?
In 1972, milk producers pledged $2 million to the reelection campaign of sitting president, Richard Nixon. In response, Nixon’s administration provided price supports worth over two hundred times that amount. Clement Stone, Nixon’s top individual campaign contributor, also gave $2 million. Meanwhile, the average contribution of Nixon’s largest ten donors was $400,000 each. The record from the Watergate Scandal documents the corruption that resulted, including the selling of ambassadorships and public acts to large campaign contributors. Never once since Watergate had it been legal for any single donor to donate such large sums to candidates and party committees—until this April that is.
Going forward, an ever-tinier sliver of wealthy Americans will control the financing of campaigns and political parties.
Handed down on April second of this year, McCutcheon v. FEC strikes down the federal limit on the total amount of money that any particular donor could give to candidates, PACs, and party committees. The Federal Election Campaign Finance Reform Act— Congress’ response to the Watergate Scandal—prohibits any donor from giving more than $5,200 to any one candidate, $32,400 to a single national party committee, $10,000 to any state or local party committee, and $5,000 to any particular PAC. Beyond those “base limits,” the Watergate reforms also implemented “aggregate limits,” prohibiting any particular donor from giving over $123,200 total to all candidates, PACs, and party committees.