POLITICS: PennAve

McCutcheon ruling likely to change little in campaigns' strategies

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Politics,Supreme Court,Campaign Finance,Campaigns,PennAve,Rebecca Berg,FEC,Law

The Supreme Court's ruling this week allowing individuals to donate money to an unlimited number of candidates or party committees initially led to fears that the campaign-finance floodgates would burst open.

“The last thing the middle class needs right now is more money in politics," said Rep. Steve Israel, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

But the conventional wisdom surrounding the decision in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission is, increasingly, that it will have a severely limited impact in shifting fundraising strategies or outcomes for candidates in this midterm election cycle — in spite of worries that it could, in theory, enable cash-rich donors to give money to every campaign nationwide.

"I don't see many of those donors being interested in writing dozens of checks to members and candidates because of this ruling," said one Republican involved in fundraising. "It's just not efficient."

The ruling will erase a restriction previously in place to limit maxing out on donations to a handful of candidates and two party committees. It will impact very few donors: In 2012, according to the Center For Responsive Politics, only 646 hit the $117,000 maximum for candidates and committees.

The extra money allowed under the Supreme Court's ruling will likely be the greatest boon for the party committees, which under federal rules can bring in more money than campaigns. Committees that can be overlooked in some election cycles are likely to gain the most. For example, there is little attention paid by donors to the House campaign committees in years like this one, when Senate races and a future presidential election are in the spotlight.

"This is a victory … for people who want to see political parties and candidates on the same playing field, or a little bit closer to the same playing field, as the First Amendment was intended to allow us to be," said Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus this week.

It also promises to have a measurable, somewhat negative effect on lobbyists, who tend to max out to candidates with whom they would like to build stronger political relationships — and who now will be under pressure to give money to a wider swath of candidates for professional advancement.

But, for individual campaigns in this election cycle, fundraising strategies will remain largely unchanged, along with the bottom line.

"This really isn't a big deal," said one Senate Republican fundraiser. "I walked into work today, and there is no difference."

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