Soft Money Limits are Safe, but Justice Gorsuch is Dangerous

Today, the Supreme Court declined to review a lower court decision upholding limits on so-called "soft money" in politics. Congress enacted these limits as part of the McCain-Feingold Act in hopes of stopping wealthy donors from funneling huge sums of unregulated or “soft” money to political parties as a way of evading campaign contribution limits. Although many channels still remain for big donors to exert their influence on American politics, today’s Supreme Court decision to safeguard soft money limits is a relief, since we really can’t afford political parties to become even less responsive to the American people and even more responsive to the political donor class.

Only two Justices voted to hear the case: Justice Thomas, who has been consistently conservative and pro-big-money, and Trump’s newly-confirmed Justice Gorsuch. Demos opposed Gorsuch’s nomination on the grounds of his extreme record on money in politics and corporate rights, and warned that Justice Gorsuch would side with big-monied interests over everyday Americans (Trump’s laughable promises to “drain the swamp” notwithstanding). As election law expert Rick Hasen explains, this is Justice Gorsuch going out of his way to signal his conservative views on money in politics:

[Today’s decision] also tells us something about Justice Gorsuch. He was not shy at all—not only about being willing to wade into this very controversial area, but about announcing publicly his vote to hear the case (something he did not need to do). It could well be that he will be as conservative as Justice Thomas is in these cases. (Justice Thomas believes all campaign finance laws—including disclosure—should be subject to strict scrutiny and are likely unconstitutional.) I expect that unlike most Justices, J. Gorsuch may not begin his first few terms cautiously, and then work his way up to his full Supreme Court voice.

While the world speculates about how long Trump’s disastrous presidency will endure, the American people have already been saddled with Justice Gorsuch’s extreme views for a lifetime appointment. And if this case—otherwise a win for money-in-politics reformers—is any indicator, Demos was unfortunately right about whose side Justice Gorsuch is on.

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