News Release

ON DAY OF ORAL ARGUMENT IN MCCUTCHEON V. FEC, GROUPS GATHER TO PUSH BACK ON BIG MONEY IN POLITICS, DEMAND SOLUTIONS

Supreme Court case could add over $1 billion in contributions from large donors over next four election cycles
For Immediate Release

TRENTON – NJPIRG, the New Jersey Sierra Club, Main Street Alliance and citizen activists from across the state gathered at the State House today to push back on the power of big money in elections, as the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in McCutcheon v. FEC. Advocates say the case would further increase the electoral clout of a few large donors.

In the case, Alabama donor Shaun McCutcheon will ask to strike down the overall limit on what an individual can give to federal candidates, parties, and PACs in a two year election cycle. That limit currently stands at $123,200 – already over twice the average household income in the U.S. 

“Most Americans do not feel that our voices are being heard on Capitol Hill, and who could blame us? In Citizens United the Supreme Court handed a giant megaphone to the wealthiest interests, and today it will consider turning up the volume even higher,” said Peter Skopec, Program Associate at NJPIRG. “The last thing we need right now is to increase the giving of the donors with the deepest pockets. Rather, we should be empowering small donors so that ordinary Americans can provide the funds needed to run campaigns.”

The Supreme Court has never struck down a federal contribution limit, maintaining that these limits are constitutional because they prevent corruption and the appearance of corruption. McCutcheon threatens to set a dangerous precedent.

Citizens United gave corporations a bull horn and put gags on average citizens. The McCutcheon case will make it even worse,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “It is this dirty money from special interests that undermines our government and election process. We can never have clean air and clean water without clean government. We are concerned that the only thing green in Congress or the Legislature is the money from corporate polluters.”

New state-level research released by NJ Main Street Alliance indicates that removing aggregate contribution limits would super-size the influence of big out-of-state donors, making government less responsive to New Jersey voters. The research looks at out-of-state spending in New Jersey by elite “McCutcheon donors” (donors who gave within 10% of the aggregate contribution limit) in the 2012 election cycle. Key findings include:

  • 224 elite out-of-state donors gave money in New Jersey in the 2012 cycle.  93 percent of the “McCutcheon donors” who gave in New Jersey in the 2012 cycle were out-of-state donors.
  • Out-of-state "McCutcheon donors" gave $646,936 to federal candidates and the state party committees in New Jersey in the 2012 cycle.

Meanwhile, new research from NJPIRG and Demos projects that if aggregate contribution limits are lifted, "McCutcheon donors" would raise their giving and inject an additional $1 billion in campaign contributions through the 2020 elections.

“Our political system already is suffering from the Citizens United decision, which allowed secret, unlimited expenditures under the flimsiest of restrictions,” said U.S. Rep. Rush Holt (NJ-12).  “Today’s Supreme Court case represents an effort to make this bad situation even worse.  It is the latest in a series of efforts aimed at eliminating all limits on campaign contributions and giving millionaires and billionaires unlimited influence on our political system.”

Resources: 

NJPIRG and Dēmos, “McCutcheon Money”: http://www.njpirg.org/reports/njp/mccutcheon-money

New Jersey Main Street Alliance, “McCutcheon Donors”: http://nj.mainstreetalliance.org/files/2013/10/NJMSA-McCutcheon-donor-fa...

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NJPIRG, the New Jersey Public Interest Research Group, stands up to powerful special interests on behalf of the public, working to win concrete results for our health and our well-being.  Visit us at www.njpirg.org or follow us @njpirg on Facebook and Twitter.

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