The Five Big Issues in the Supreme Court’s Current Term: Campaign Finance

This is the first of five posts.  Each of the five issues gives you an opportunity to ask yourself, “Just what do I mean when I say I am a liberal or a conservative (or whatever designation you use for yourself)?”  It’s a question worth asking.  You might not be sure what label to use.  If you do use one label consistently, you might not be sure just how that applies to concrete situations.

I can ask the question more simply of myself, since I am a garden variety liberal.  My questions would be: a) being a liberal, how do you imagine you will respond to today’s issue (campaign finance); b) having read about McCutcheon v. FED, what do you think ought to be done; and c) does this position confirm or challenge your idea of yourself as a liberal?

I’m going to be using Adam Liptak’s article in the New York Times as my information source (here it is) about the current term of the court and as my information source about each of the cases.  Today’s issue is campaign finance.

Being a liberal, I am bothered by how much influence wealthy people have in our elections.  I don’tCourt term 2 like the way they dominate the lobbying of Congress either, but that isn’t today’s topic.  The Supreme Court’s standard—one man, one vote—in Reynolds v. Simms (1964) seems like a good one to me.  “One dollar, one vote,” which is what happens to the political system when unlimited amounts of money may be dumped into it and candidacies bought and sold in from of God and everyone, seems like a bad standard.

For that reason, the Congress passed the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act in 2002, putting two kinds of limits on how much money could be given in a campaign and to whom.  In the 2010—2011 election cycle, Shaun McCutcheon wanted to give more money—in the aggregate—than  the law allowed.  Here are the basic facts of McCutcheon v. FEC as presented by, the easiest to use of the Supreme Court sites.

Since the Federal Election Commission is responsible for enforcing the provisions of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, McCutcheon sued them.  His case is set to be heard by the Supreme Court this term.

Court term 1McCutcheon wants to go the wrong direction, according to my values.  He wants to increase the amount of money wealthy people can invest in politics and I would like to decrease it.  That’s where my liberalism brings me.  So I hope the Court will decide against him and that the aggregate limits for political donations will stay where they are.  As I reflect on my political ideology, as it show up in this case, I think I got it right.  I’m liberal.


About hessd

Here is all you need to know to follow this blog. I am an old man and I love to think about why we say the things we do. I've taught at the elementary, secondary, collegiate, and doctoral levels. I don't think one is easier than another. They are hard in different ways. I have taught political science for a long time and have practiced politics in and around the Oregon Legislature. I don't think one is easier than another. They are hard in different ways. You'll be seeing a lot about my favorite topics here. There will be religious reflections (I'm a Christian) and political reflections (I'm a Democrat) and a good deal of whimsy. I'm a dilettante.
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