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ON DAY OF ORAL ARGUMENTS IN MCCUTCHEON V. FEC, WASHINGTON STATE PUBLIC OFFICIALS AND POLITICAL 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

SEATTLE – Today WashPIRG, Washington Senator Adam Kline, Fair Elections Seattle, Backbone Campaign, WAMEND and University of Washington students gathered at the U.S. District Court in downtown Seattle to push back on the power of big money in elections, as the U.S. Supreme Court today 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 – over twice the average household income in the U.S. In 2012, only 1,219 donors came within 10% of hitting the aggregate limit. New research from U.S. PIRG and Demos projects that if the limit is lifted, this small set of elite donors would raise their giving and inject an additional $1 billion in campaign contributions through the 2020 elections.

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. The groups argue that right now, when confidence in Congress is at an all-time low, it would be extremely unwise to toss aside that precedent.

“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 Chris Esh, Policy Associate at WashPIRG. “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.”

“There are two elections that take place in America; the first is the election of the donors,” said Jake Faleschini of Fair Elections Seattle. “Only after you are successful in that election do you move on to the election of the people. Here in Seattle we have the opportunity to lessen the impact of these destructive cases by voting for Prop 1.” 

The Seattle General Election will include on the ballot a proposition to create a publicly-funded, matching donor program for small donor gifts to participating Seattle City Council candidates. The proposition is based on the overwhelming success of New York City’s similar public matching system for City Council candidates. Seattle was the first major city in the country to have a publicly-funded small donor program for candidates in City office, and later deconstructed by language in a statewide ballot initiative in 1993.

Resources: 

“McCutcheon Money” Report with WashPIRG & DEMOS

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