Supreme Court ruling and the local impact

Today’s Supreme Court ruling eliminating caps on how many federal races an individual can contribute to could have an impact here if ever there is a federal race that is considered “in play.” We have not seen that in a while.

The Citizens United decision earlier had the potential of dramatically increasing the amount spent on local races for independent groups and did very little here. U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer, the Gig Harbor Democrat who replaced Norm Dicks and Jay Inslee in representing the Kitsap area, did not have a particularly close race in 2012, so all that suspect money was spent elsewhere.

Today’s decision allows someone to contribute to as many House or Senate races as there are, but maintains the maximum contribution to any single race to $2,600 for the primary and another $2,600 for the general election. If someone decided to contribute in every race, it could cost more than $2.2 million. Before today the max was $48,600 per federal election cycle. The most envisioned scenario is someone giving a party, let’s say $1 million, and saying “Spend it where it’s needed.”

Parties like to spend money on races they have a chance at winning. Two years ago they didn’t see that happening here, so they didn’t spend any.

I have heard rumors about who might run against Kilmer this year, but no one has filed with the Federal Elections Commission. Meanwhile the FEC website indicates Kilmer has raised more than $1 million for the 2014 election, about $575,000 from individuals and about $419,000 from political action committees.

Kilmer issued a press release today expressing his disappointment with the Supreme Court ruling. It follows:

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Representative Derek Kilmer (WA-06) stated his disappointment with the Supreme Court’s ruling that strikes down caps on overall contributions by donors to candidates, political parties and political action committees. In a 5-4 decision, the majority decided to do away with a limit of $123,000 for each two-year federal election cycle. Individual contributions for Presidential and Congressional candidates will remain at $2,600 per election.

“Today’s Supreme Court ruling is another victory for special interests and money over citizen involvement. America’s democratic republic was founded on a core principle — our government should answer to ‘we the people.’ The excessive influence of special interests and deep pockets risks drowning out the voices of citizens. This will only make a Congress that is already broken even more dysfunctional.

“Keeping our democracy strong should be a bipartisan issue. Together, we need to combat rulings like this that give special interests a front-row seat in our democracy. It’s time to pass campaign finance reform, get big money out of politics, turn down the partisan bickering, and start solving problems.”

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