What does McCutcheon decision mean?

McCutcheson Decision

McCutcheon vs. Federal Elections Commission

Last week the Supreme Court handed down a narrow 5-4 ruling, striking down a decades-old cap on the total amount an individual can contribute to federal candidates in a two-year election cycle. Prior to April 2, an individual donor was capped at giving $123,200 in a two year election cycle to federal candidates, political action committees (PAC), and political parties. After this very narrow Supreme Court decision, an individual can now contribute more than $3.5 million to candidates, political parties, and PACs. This means one person can give the maximum amount to every single House and Senate race, party and PAC. Super wealthy donors can give money to uncontested races, then those candidates can redirect the money to targeted races.  

The original lawsuit was brought to the Supreme Court by climate change denying, coal businessman, Shaun McCutcheon and the Republican National Committee. McCutcheon wanted to be able to have even more influence over elected officials.
Let’s be clear, the elimination of this cap does not help you or me. Only around 1200 Americans met the cap of $123,200 in recent elections. To put this into context, $123,000 is more than double the typical income of an American household. This only helps the 1% of the 1%. When creating policies, elected officials will be even more accountable to wealthy polluters, instead of every day Americans. 
What McCutcheon does not do
1) It does not lift the contribution cap to individual candidates. However, the Supreme Court left the door open to potentially overturn campaign contribution limits in individual races. 
2) It does not affect super PAC contributions. McCutcheon was solely about contributions directly to candidates, parties and PACs. 
What is the Sierra Club doing about it?
The Sierra Club, along with NAACP, Communications Workers of America and Greenpeace, created the Democracy Initiative to help address some of the greatest threats to our democracy: the undue influence of money in politics, unprecedented attacks on voting rights, and dysfunction of the U.S. Senate. The Democracy Initiative has grown to 44 endorsing organizations, including MoveOn.org, SEIU, AFSCME, National Council of La Raza, and Common Cause. Collectively, we are working to engage issue-based membership organizations to engage more deeply to restore our democracy to one of, by and for the people. 
To better incorporate this work into all levels of the Sierra Club we recently created the Sierra Club Democracy Program. The same corporate polluters we all fight against to defend our air and water, are the same people pumping money into the pockets of candidates and the same people supporting laws that suppress voters. We mobilized around the McCutcheon decision with Sierra Club members and staff participating in rapid response events around the country on the day the decision was handed down. With a diverse range of coalition partners we are building a movement of organized people to push back on organized money. 
What you can do 
1) Help spread the word. Share this image on Facebook.  
2) Along with our allies we are working to mobilize letters to the editor to local and state papers. 
    *We will provide sample LTE language and messaging in a follow up email. 
3) In the coming weeks, we are reaching out to Sierra Club chapter leaders and staff about how to
    engage more deeply in this work over the long term. 
More information on McCutcheon v. Federal Elections Commission 
1) Sierra Club Statement & Blog on McCutcheon
2) Analyses of McCutcheon decision by Demos
This is a fight we can win because organized people can beat organized money.

Courtney Hight
Director, Democracy Program
Sierra Club
50 F Street NW, 8th Floor
Washington, DC 20001


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