THE ATLANTIC: Congress, Roberts repeated, cannot seek to “‘level the playing field,’ or to ‘level electoral opportunities,’ or to ‘equaliz[e] the financial resources of candidates.’” Thus its only legitimate reason for regulating campaign finance is “preventing corruption or the appearance of corruption.”
“Corruption,” however, is defined only a bargain like, “I will give you $200,000 to vote for my subsidy.” Roberts does not deny that the objects of McCutcheon’s bounty are likely to feel grateful to him, and to desire to please him while in office. However, as the majority originally explained in Citizens United, the mere fact that an officeholder is grateful to a donor; that he or she is eager to please that donor; that he or she allows that donor special access and consults that donor’s wishes and interests in preference to those of others not so favored—silly rabbit, that’s not corruption, it’s democracy at work.
“[G]overnment regulation may not target the general gratitude a candidate may feel toward those who support him or his allies, or the political access such support may afford,” Roberts writes. “They embody a central feature of democracy—that constituents support candidates who share their beliefs and interests, and candidates who are elected can be expected to be responsive to those concerns.”
Here is the airless loop of right-wing campaign-finance ideology: Contributions of money are just support, like volunteering to lick stamps at the campaign office; reclusive Nevada billionaires are just constituents, like the widow seeking her pension benefits; the desires of business executives are just beliefs, advanced in the way the Founding Fathers wanted—by writing big checks. Under this rationale, it is hard to see why direct-contribution limits should be allowed, and we may assume that cases soon to be brought will give the majority the chance to eviscerate those limits. MORE