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U.S. Supreme Court ruling on campaign donations may affect Michigan politics

Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio

A campaign spending watchdog is worried about the potential effect on Michigan’s politics by a U.S. Supreme Court decision today. 

The Supreme Court has struck down limits in federal law on the overall campaign contributions the biggest individual donors may make to candidates, political parties and political action committees.

The justices said in a 5-4 vote Wednesday that Americans have a right to give the legal maximum to candidates for Congress and president, as well as to parties and PACs, without worrying that they will violate the law when they bump up against a limit on all contributions, set at $123,200 for 2013 and 2014. That includes a separate $48,600 cap on contributions to candidates.

But their decision does not undermine limits on individual contributions to candidates for president or Congress, now $2,600 per candidate in primary and general elections.

Rich Robinson is the executive director of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network.

He’s worried partially lifting donor limits will lead to more influence in fewer people's hands.

“Money is more important than ever. And those with the deepest pockets will have more sway than ever," says Robinson.

Robinson says this is not just about big donors who are usually associated with a particular political party.

“A donor could be agnostic as far as party goes,” says Robinson, “but if they can essentially bribe every member of Congress, they’ve got a lot more leverage in getting what they want out of government.”

Robinson says the Supreme Court ruling may have a particular effect on Michigan’s 8th Congressional District primary race.

Longtime Congressman Mike Rogers surprised many with his announcement last month that he won’t seek re-election.

Robinson says the high court’s ruling may tip the balance in the primaries to candidates who can secure the support of those with the deepest pockets.

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
The Associated Press is an independent global news organization dedicated to factual reporting.
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