Speak Outs
Speak Out
Should campaign donations be considered political speech?

April 10, 2014

By Jeremy Quattlebaum, Student Voices staff writer

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled, 5-4, that limits on the total amount that a person can contribute to candidates and parties during a two-year election cycle are unconstitutional because they violate the First Amendment right to free speech.

In McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, the majority opinion said: “There is no right in our democracy more basic, than the right to participate in electing our political leaders.”

The court ruled that while individuals still have to limit each contribution to $2,600 per candidate, they can now donate that amount to as many candidates as they wish in an election cycle. Previously, the overall limit was $48,600 for contributions to all federal candidates. The separate total cap on contributions to political party committees is $74,600.

The majority opinion, written by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., found that the caps on spending violated the First Amendment. He said political contributions to campaigns, candidates, super PACs, and political interest groups were a form of political speech, therefore protected. Roberts even likened it to the tradition of newspapers endorsing candidates.

Roberts wrote: “The government may no more restrict how many candidates or causes a donor may support than it may tell a newspaper how many candidates it may endorse.”

With the Supreme Court’s ruling, individuals can now donate to an unlimited number of candidates and political party committees in an election cycle. Supporters of McCutcheon say that the limit on the size of an individual donation to a candidate or political party committee should be scrapped, too.

The eight states that have aggregate contribution limits are now left to decide whether they will fight to keep those limits. Both Maryland and Massachusetts have suspended the enforcement of limits while they review the ruling and how it would apply to their laws.

Justice Stephen J. Breyer, who wrote the dissenting opinion, said the ruling would lead to money becoming even a larger player in state and local elections and would allow “a single individual to contribute millions of dollars to a political party or candidate’s campaign.”

His dissent also raised the specter of corruption and the dwindling influence of individuals in political campaigns. Breyer said candidates might feel obligated to pass laws that favor their donors over their constituents.

“The anticorruption interest that drives Congress to regulate campaign contributions is a far broader, more important interest than the plurality acknowledges,” he wrote. “It is an interest in maintaining the integrity of our public governmental institutions.”

“Where enough money calls the tune,” Breyer wrote, “the general public will not be heard.”

The ruling is another move by the Supreme Court to strike down limits on election spending. In 2010, in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the court abolished limits on independent campaign spending by corporations and unions.

What do you think?

Do you agree with the majority or the dissenting opinion? Should a campaign donation be considered political speech and protected by the First Amendment? Join the discussion and let us know what you think!
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Comments
6/2/2014
Irving, Tx
Janet
Bradley/Nimitz
I agree with the majority by saying that there shouldn't be a cap on the amount of money an individual can donate to support a candidate. People should be allowed to support a candidate in any way they desire to. Therefor, I do believe that campaign donations should be protected by the First Amendment because the amount of money a person donates shows how strongly that person supports that candidate. Also, campaigns require a lot of expenses, so I'm sure that candidates need as much support as they can get.

6/2/2014
Montgomery
Andrew Pace
Metzger, Montgomery High
I agree with Justice Breyer, political corruption is a real thing and must be regulated and finally stopped. Not many people make donations without wanting compensation for helping a candidate get into office. The candidate is going to neeed all the help he/she can acquire and will often take the any donation. I honestly think it'd be easier to screen the donor for possibility to corrupt the candidate.

6/2/2014
Irving/TX
Vivian
Bradley/Nimitz
I believe that there should not be a limit to how much money people are willing to spend to campaign a candidate. Money is perceived as a supplement to gaining possible followers to their campaign. This does not mean that campaign donations be #1 factor to attract and grab more people to their campaign. Putting limits to the size of an individual donation is like limiting someone's words and freedom that the First Amendment grants us.

6/1/2014
Irving/Texas
Lacie
Bradley/Nimitz
Campaign donations are most definitely a form of political speech. If someone has money, and they choose to donate it to help out the candidate that they want to win the election, then they have every right to do so. There should be no law prohibiting if and how much any person may donate to a campaign. I understand what justice Breyer has said about money becoming a larger player in local and state elections, because that is indeed true, but people have a right to do what they want with their money and if that is to make a large amount of campaign donations then so be it. Part of being a good politician is getting on peoples ‘good sides’ or to be convincing enough to get people to vote for you, or even donate to your campaign. Unfortunately, money will become an even bigger aspect than before, but it is the people’s first amendment rights to be able to donate as much as they want and for it to rightfully be considered political speech.

6/1/2014
Irving/Texas
Rajith Idiculla
Bradley/Nimitz
If a donor’s campaign contribution has a cap, as the supreme court majority opinion has approved and written, there is nothing wrong with contributing to as many political candidates in one election cycle. As written in the article, if an individual newspaper can endorse as many candidates as they want then why can’t an individual person do the same? The newspaper is simply giving an opinion on who they would vote for, the same can be said about an individual contributor to a campaign. Their money is helping tell the rest of the public that they support this candidate. If a candidate has a lot of marketing for their direct campaign then it can be extrapolated that they have a lot of contributors to their campaign (this is not taking into account Super Pacs, which have no contribution limits for individuals but are not technically associated with a candidate).With contributions capped directly to a candidate, for all intent and purposes, a contribution can be considered free speech, an expression of your opinion, a vote with your dollars.

5/30/2014
Irving T.X
Eva
Bradley/Nimitz
Campaign donations are surely a way of voicing your opinion on which campaign you agree with, meaning there views and standpoints are similar to yours so in donating you are showing what you think. However the sum of money being donated can sometimes be a dilemma due to the outstanding advantage money creates between political campaigns. More money means more marketing, more posters, and more of anything really, and with that advantage it is easy for one campaign to be more known than the other. I would say it is fair to not limit considering if one has more support then they have more support, however groups and people don't just donate to support. Many donations are given expecting something back, with this in mind I say it is better to limit due to this factor.

5/29/2014
Irving, Tx
Pam
Bradley/Nimitz
I agree with the dissenting opinion. While a campaign donation can be considered political speech, not limiting the amount of money a person or group can donate can easily give them a leg up in the election. Just as the article mentions, the candidate might feel the obligation to pass laws in favor of their donors. Especially to those who do not, or cannot, donate, this is a serious problem that could be encountered. Then, candidates would not be doing what they believe best for their constituents, but pleasing donors to keep their position.

5/29/2014
Irving, TX
Josh A
Bradley/ Nimitz
I do agree with the majority. Supporters should have the right to donate as much as they want while exercising the 1st amendment. They are obviously political speech because large sums of money donated is spend on propaganda. Of course, the money donated should always be used for its initial purpose and not for the campaigners own selfishness.

5/28/2014
Irving/T.X
Felipe
Bradley/Nimitz
I think that money is money and if you have it, then you can take it wherever you want to take it. Money will control almost about anything and we cant control where it goes. So if someone really wants that person to win then having the most money will give them that upper hand. Everyone earns their money their way and it shouldn't be limited on what you can do with it,. You won it for a reason. The campaign donations should be protected as a freedom of speech, with no limit of how much can and can't be spend on it

5/23/2014
Irving/TX
Anh
Bradley/Nimitz
Campaign donations should be considered political speech since it is their way of supporting their candidate and their party that they the candidate to represent for the people. Although it is unfair, the donors do have a right to root and choose whomever they wish to run with their help of their money. This may even lead to corruption since the richer can donate their money to those who they see fit but as long as the government puts a limit to how much, then it can help. But, people have found a way around to not putting limits, like the 527’s (the loophole found in the IRS Code), in which they can take their money and make ads to promote their candidates. The campaigns should be protected by the first amendment because it’s their money, it’s their opinion on who they wish to run and represent them. Although it may seem as though the general public is not being heard over the amounts of money being given, the public is stronger than just those who put their money out.

5/20/2014
irving/texas
Pablo
Bradley/nimitz
Donating money to a political campaign should not be considered a political speech. citizens have earned their money and they have every right to spend it anyway they want to. donating to a Candidate is not cheating it's simply just a way of supporting that particular candidate and their purpose. Donating is a choice if you have the money just do it. We cannot control the population on how to use their hard earned money.

5/16/2014
Irving/Texas
Jessi
Bradley/Nimitz
Campaign donations should have a cap. American citizens still have the right to assemble but this right is regulated if it presents a danger. Just like other rights are regulated, this should be as well. To please the donors, Congress could raise the donation limit but the limit should exist nonetheless. Money is a huge factor in the political playing field and direct donations give advantage and should be regulated to create a fair competition field.

5/16/2014
Irving/ Texas
Victoria E.
Bradley/ Nimitz HS
I agree with the majority opinion on the ruling that donating money is political speech and is therefore part of our rights given by the First Amendment. However, I also agree with the dissenting opinion of putting a cap on the number of candidates you can give money too. If we were to let people or businesses contribute as much money as they wanted, it would become more than just campaign donations. People would be buying the candidates favor – the benefactor pays to get a candidate into office and the candidate promises certain advantages for that benefactor. Money is a huge cause of corruption and if there is a way to avoid it playing a huge part in elections we should take advantage of it.

5/15/2014
Irving/Texas
Monica F.
Bradley/Nimitz
I believe that a campaign donation can be considered political speech, which therefore allows it to be protected by the First Amendment. People make their money and spend it as they please. And although I do think that spending over two thousand dollars on a candidate is rather crazy, who am I to stand in that person's way - they worked for their money, so they should do what they want to with it.

5/12/2014
Irving/Tx
Ty'Mira
Bradley/Nimitz
I do not believe that the Supreme Court should strike down the limits on election spending. I believe the limits are for your safety. Not everyone does exactly what they say they will do and everyone is not honest. The campaign should be considered political speech but people should not complain about how their money was wasted and how poorly their candidate did.

5/12/2014
Irving/TX
Michael
Bradley/Nimitz
I believe in a campaign donation, citizens should have the right to spend their money however they want, because it is there hard earned money! Some people might say that it is cheating and totally unfair. In my honest opinion, each person individually has an choice to vote for a politician because of money or for their philosophy!

5/12/2014
Irving/Texas
Adam
Bradley/Nimitz
Donating money should not a problem. People are donating to the Candidate they believe will make an impact, and the money could help along the way. We cannot tell the American people on how to spend their money on. Most people spend money on ridiculous things. They think this candidate will succeed and donating the money will help. I think that if the government were to intervene in this issue, it would somewhat limit the peoples rights as citizens. Let them continue to do whatever they wish to spend.

5/10/2014
Irving/Texas
Milton
Bradley/Nimitz
I agree with the dissenting opinion. Donating money is not to be considered a political form of speech. The people who donate, I believe, are donating to the candidate that they see will give them the most benefits. And donating should be limited because it gives an unfair advantage to some.

5/5/2014
Irving/ Texas
Dania Vanessa
Bradley/ Nimitz
Political donations should be considered political speech and should be protected by the First Amendment. Who is to say how someone wants to spend their money. If they want to invest in someones career, then they should do it. No one is stopping investors and putting a limit on how much money they spend. If someone supports and agrees with a politicians ideals, and they want to spread those views, then I do not see a problem.

5/5/2014
Irving/ TX
Kayla
Helen Bradley/ Nimitz High School
Campaign donations should be considered political speech. The people give money to the people they favor and approve as their candidates there for it is political speech. The people should be able to do with their money as they please. Yet, I also believe that some candidates would be at a disadvantage since not all would receive the same amount of donations.

5/4/2014
Irving/Texas
Erin D
Bradley/Nimitz
Campaign donations should be seen as political speech, although I do think that there should be a reasonable cap on how much total money is being spent. What I am saying is, it is a violation of political speech dictating how much can be spent for each sector, while opening the gates on how much can be spent in each sector, applying a general cap will help protect the voices of the less “fortunate” who cannot afford to make such generous donations to political campaign. I think both views that the Supreme Court shared are valid arguments, which is why there should be a happy middle ground that would protect everyone’s right to equal representation. I am aware of creating a general funding cap could be difficult, but coming from a middle class family who cannot afford to put money behind political organizations or campaigns we support, it seems most logical.

5/2/2014
Irving/Texas
Yesenia
Bradley/Nimitz
The majority said that one of our more basic rights is to participate in the election of our political leaders and I agree that we should be able to do that with no limits imposed. But is limiting the mount of money a citizen can donate a form of violating their freedom of speech? Campaign donation can be seen as a form of speech because it allows their voice to be represented but those who are not as economically advantage as others may not be represented the same as others. Also like the article said, the large amount of money can sway individuals towards their ideas because they seem obligated to agree with their donors. Even though their might be some swaying of an opinion, a citizen should be allowed to express their passion as much as they would like, and if that passion is expressed with large amounts of donations the government should not limit the amount they can donate. Therefore campaign donations should be protected by the first amendment.

5/1/2014
Irving/Texas
Jose L
Bradley/Nimitz
I do agree that campaign donations should be considered political speech. Although contributions should be allowed there should be a more specified limit on the contributions. Not only should they limit the amount but also to how many representatives they donate to because money has become a a too important factor in election. The dissenting opinion appeals more to me more because I agree with the corruption that arises because of financial reasons.

5/1/2014
Irving/TX
Evila
Bradley/Nimitz
Campaign donations should be considered political speech because individuals are showing their support to their candidate or party. It goes against the first amendment right to attempt to limit the amount of money they can donate. It is like limiting the amount of words a person can say in favor of a candidate. Furthermore, if the individual earned the money then they should be able to do with it as they wish. Campaign donation are an attempt to show their support and it should be protected.

5/1/2014
Irving/Texas
William Kyle
Bradley/Nimitz
The amount of money that can be spent by a single person on any and all political views should be limited for the reason of every citizen having a more equal say. If those with the money to spend are able to spend an unlimited amount on supporting their favorite candidate then those without that excess amount of money are limited by the small amount of money, if any, they are able to spend. Effectively nullifying their say in who gets elected.

4/30/2014
Irving/TX
Sarah L
Bradley/Nimitz High School
I believe that those who have earned their money should be able to spend it wherever they please. However, money definitely has a huge correlation with corruption in politics. I believe that if we do not place some sort of limit on the amount of contributions, that the possibility of political corruptions will skyrocket. I do not believe this is a restriction on the First Amendment because the whole point of a democracy is to hear the voice of the people, not the richest among us.

4/30/2014
Irving/Texas
Kimberly
Bradley/Nimitz
U.S. Citizen have to right to deal with their money as they wish. Yes, if you have an abundance you should probably give a portion to the poor, but never the less you have the choice. With that being said campaign donations should be considered as political speech and be protected by the fifth amendment. A person has the right to give the person that they think should be in a position of power to means to that end.

4/29/2014
Irving/Teaxs
Joanielee
Bradley/Nimitz High School
Quantity does not always equal quality and the majority is not always right. I am in agreement with Breyer, the restriction to a certain extentmay be healthier because money runs the land. A donation could be considered under the First Amendment, but that would be up to the Supreme Court, and would probably give tons of different kinds of people advantages/ disadvantages.

4/29/2014
Irving/TX
Zach
Bradley/Nimitz
As much as my brave, rebellious, teenage mind wants to believe that John Roberts is preparing to let a very generous benefactor contribute to someone's political success in the near future, I must lay my fedora aside for now. Money is power. I hope that an all powerful deity will one day prevent me from holding office because I would accept all the bribes. Money not only involves corruption in politics, but it also provides the strongest campaigns. If the wealthiest men in the United States want a candidate to win badly enough, they will most definitely find a way to contribute their funds, cap or no cap. Nothing will prevent Kevin Spacey from holding office!

4/28/2014
Irving/TX
Carmen
Bradley/Nimirz
I believe that one as American should be able to spend their hard earned money, anyway they want. Spending money on a candidate of choice is political speech and seeing as the first amendment is freedom of speech then why not let one spend the money? The campaign donations should most definitely be protected as a freedom of speech, with no limit of how much can and can't be spent. The PAC should just decide on what they should raise, not how much one can spend. It's ones own personal choice.

4/28/2014
Irving TX
Vanessa
Bradley/Nimitz
Citizens should be able to spend as much money as they want on parties and candidates, this being protected by the first amendment. The first amendment includes freedom of expression, this expresses their faith in a party/candidate. Even if it is or may be a stupid choice they should be able to do as they please. If people want to spend thousands of dollars on a campaign they have faith in or choose to donate to they should. People spend their money on stupid things anway, let them be politically involved for a change.

4/28/2014
Irving/Texas
Isabel
Bradley/Nimitz
Campaign donations should not apply under freedom of speech because money will trump the candidate's chances of getting elected for the right reasons. However, I do agree that the people of the United States should have the right to do what they choose with their money, but the problem that can arise with that may be that of some campaigns becoming much more wealthy than others. It makes campaigning a lot harder for those who don't have the support from people with money, and it makes for a less candid vote. A campaign doesn't even require much money. If the people like you, they will vote. The donors should instead consider saving their money or investing in other things like charities.

4/28/2014
Irving/ Texas
Indya
Bradley/Nimitz
There shouldn't be a limit on the amount of money one can donate to an election. Limiting the amount would effect the number of speeches am candidate can have. Campaigns are very expensive, and limiting donations can limit what they are able to do. Donations are done by individual choice. If one choose to donate a certain amount of money then theg should be allowed to do so.

4/28/2014
Irving/TX
Sarah V
Bradley/Nimitz
A campaign donation should be protected by the first amendment and should not have a limitation placed on it by the government. If an individual wishes to donate more than the overall limit of $48,600 to all candidates, then they should have the right to do so. Even though this may allow individuals to donate large sums to their preferred candidate, possibly swinging the election in that candidates favor, it should not be the reasoning for the donation cap. The First Amendment protects the citizen’s right of political speech, yet having a donation limit is a hindrance of the citizen’s right.

4/28/2014
Irving/Tx
Ruth
Bradley/Nimitz
There should not be a limit on how much a citizen can spend on a candidate. People should be able to spend money as they please and be protected by the first amendment. The Super Pacs should just decide how much money they raise. If people want to splurge on candidates let them .

4/28/2014
Irving/Texas
Berenizes
Bradley/Nimitz
Americans can spend their money how they please. If someone wants to spend thousands on clothing, they have that right. Same with the issue of whether or not there should be limits on how much a citizen can spend on a particular candidate. A citizen is protected by the first amendment and has the right to spend as much as they please on a candidate. Even if that isn’t a smart choice to make it still is their choice to make. Donations are an individual’s choice, therefore instead of limiting how much money a candidate can receive let the PAC decide how much they raise.

4/28/2014
Irving/Texas
Berenizes
Bradley/Nimitz
Americans can spend their money how they please. If someone wants to spend thousands on clothing, they have that right. Same with the issue of whether or not there should be limits on how much a citizen can spend on a particular candidate. A citizen is protected by the first amendment and has the right to spend as much as they please on a candidate. Even if that isn’t a smart choice to make it still is their choice to make. Donations are an individual’s choice, therefore instead of limiting how much money a candidate can receive let the PAC decide how much they raise.

4/28/2014
Connecticut
Ben
Valley Regional High School
I believe that campaign donations (specifically from Super Pacs) should not apply under freedom of speech because even though these fund help publicity of the candidate it can influence the election in a negative way. The problem with giving people no limit on how much money they can donate to a campaign, some campaigns can be much more wealthy then others. Which means if one candidate can afford more adds and more propaganda they are obviously going to win the election. This makes campaigns less of an honest vote and more about who ever can put forth the most money. Also there are other ways of expressing your views and publicizing your candidate without spending millions of dollars.

4/25/2014
Irving/Texas
Caroline
Bradley/Nimitz
If the person has the brains to spend that much money on a candidate then they should be free to do so. Although there are other places the money should be poured in to like education ,i personally don't care for how much money is donated to a candidate.The first Amendment should protect the will or desire to spend your money the way the American desires to do so, if it is to buy fifteen pairs of shoes or donating it to a candidate.In the end time will bring the consequences to our actions.

4/22/2014
Connecticut
SAM A
Happy Valley Regional
I think that campaign donations should be considered Political speech, as long as the donations are used for their initial purpose. I say this because If the money is being used for random useless things that have no relevance with the campaign then the money should certainly be limited. Where as if the money from the donations are use what they were made out to be, then there should be no limit. There should be no limit because if it is considered political speech then you cannot limit it, because there is freedom of speech in America. In conclusion I agree with the majority, and donations should be considered political speech and should be protected by the first amendment.

4/22/2014
Connecticut
Lindsey
Valley Regional
I believe that there should not be a limit on the amount of money a donation can be. Money going towards campaigns does effect the amount of speeches that a candidate can have. If they were to limit this amount of money it would directly effect the amount of speeches a candidate can have. Every aspect of their campaign costs money, so if there was a limit to the amount of donations that could be donated it would limit the extent of which a candidate could campaign. Donations are also an individual choice, so instead of making the amount of money a candidate can raise, it should be the PAC's own decision on how much they raise.

4/22/2014
Chester, CT
Lauren D.
Valley Regional
I believe that there should not really be any limit on how much money someone chooses to donate to any campaign to begin with. Although this does not have a very solid impact on our right of freedom of speech, it does limit it. I can see the point of the opposing view in some ways however such as when they are concerned of how the people that donate millions will be in a way controlling politics-but I don't think that that is true. And if that were true, then it certainly wouldn't help if the government started trying to intervene by directly limiting the rights of these people (and so indirectly limiting freedom of speech) to ensure that those of higher income do not controll too much political power in the government before they have ever even been proven guilty.

4/22/2014
Chester, CT
Lauren D.
Valley Regional
I believe that there should not really be any limit on how much money someone chooses to donate to any campaign to begin with. Although this does not have a very solid impact on our right of freedom of speech, it does limit it. I can see the point of the opposing view in some ways however such as when they are concerned of how the people that donate millions will be in a way controlling politics-but I don't think that that is true. And if that were true, then it certainly wouldn't help if the government started trying to intervene by directly limiting the rights of these people (and so indirectly limiting freedom of speech) to ensure that those of higher income do not controll too much political power in the government before they have ever even been proven guilty.

4/22/2014
Connecticut
Sam
Valley Regional
I believe there should be no limit on the amount of money the citizen contributes to the campaigner. Its the persons moneys they choose how they want to spend it. You are donating for a cause and are donating to your political party and person who you strongly support, it can be beneficial. For instance, that campaigner can win the election and like Obama's case he hired some campaigners to work in the White House. In conclusion, the First Amendment should protect the the individuals decision to spend as much money as they want in the election.

4/11/2014
Irving/Texas
Kelsea
Bradley/Nimitz HS
When it comes to putting limits on how much a citizen can spend on a particular event or candidate there should be no limit. It is an individual right to choose how your money is spent f you have earned it duly. I believe that in the name of politics and constitutional acts, campaign donations should be protected by the First Amendment. If private donors want to pour their money into something such as a campaigning individual, who might lose no matter how much money goes his way, let them! It’s a chance that some are willing to take. On the other hand, pouring too much funds into your political bobble-head may not be such a good idea if you’re looking to donate for a cause. In my opinion there are more important things out there, i.e. world hunger, the cure for cancer, the need for supplies for troops overseas…. you take your pick. Overall it is an individual’s decision to do with their money as they please; we can only hope they choose the best choice to better our nation as a whole and not someone’s political gain.

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