On Wednesday, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., and four other justices changed the landscape of campaign finance again in the Court’s biggest ruling on the subject since the 2010 Citizens United case.
In McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, Chief Justice Roberts said that the First Amendment doesn’t allow the government to limit how much money individual donors can spend on political campaigns over a two-year period.
Critics say the decision will add more fuel to the fire as a smaller number of people will wield greater influence over federal elections. Supporters say the decision is very fair, since the First Amendment should protect the free speech rights of anyone who wants to support the candidates of their choice.
In 2010, the Court delivered its controversial 5-4 decision in Citizens United, which set the stage for enormous sums of money to be spent in elections through super PACs and other independent entities.
The McCutcheon case was also a 5-4 decision, and seen as the sequel to Citizens United, with the potential to pour millions of more dollars into United States elections, directly into the campaigns of candidates for elected office, or to groups supporting them.
To analyze the constitutional ramifications of this historic decision, we’re honored to have two names familiar to many of our listeners who are also old friends of the National Constitution Center.
Floyd Abrams is currently a member of the Executive Committee at Cahill Gordon & Reindel LLP’s litigation practice group. Floyd has argued frequently in the Supreme Court in cases about the scope of the First Amendment. He also argued before the Supreme Court on behalf of Senator Mitch McConnell in the Citizens United case.
Lawrence Lessig is the Roy L. Furman Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, and Director of the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University. Professor Lessig has written frequently about the Citizens United case, the First Amendment, and the issue of corruption.
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