Nancy Pelosi: Democrats won't jump to take advantage of new campaign donor limits

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House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi suggested that her Democratic Party won't actively take advantage of new rules allowing individuals to donate more money to political campaigns, calling such a move "exploitation" of the electoral system.

"Just because the ante is raised for everyone does not make it right," the California representative told reporters Thursday when asked if Democrats would seek more big-money donors in light of a Supreme Court ruling that struck down the overall limits for wealthy contributors.

Pelosi suggested that Democrats instead will stick to their traditional fundraising strategy of rallying their grassroots base for small donations.

"We have, for a number of years now, tried to empower small donors, to diminish the role of money in politics," she said. "I think that's what the public wants to see."

"There are more ways of telling [voters] something than just by spending money to do it."

The Supreme Court, in a 5-4 ruling in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, said Americans have the right to contribute the legal maximum to as many candidates for congressional and presidential races, political parties and some political action committees as they want.

Before the ruling, federal law said that individuals couldn't give more than $48,600 to all candidates for federal office during the current two-year election cycle, and no more than $74,600 to national party committees that make contributions to candidates.

Republicans have praised the ruling, calling it a victory for First Amendment free-speech rights.

Democrats have universally condemned the decision, saying that removing the caps will lead to big-money donors gaining even more influence over elections, a scenario they say will corrupt the electoral system.

"It adds great insult to a terrible injury to our democracy," Pelosi said. "This is very, very wrong. Disappointing."

Democrats also fear the ruling will disproportionately help GOP candidates, as a majority of wealthy donors in recent elections have given more to Republicans than Democrats.

The Sunlight Foundation and the Center for Responsive Politics, in a joint study, identified 20 big political donors they suggested would most likely take advantage of the new campaign limits. They found that 13 contributed solely to Republican candidates and parties, while four gave only to Democrats. Three of the donors gave to candidates of both parties, though they heavily favored one party over the other.

"We never would have as much as the, shall we say, big outside money that [Republicans] have coming in," Pelosi said.

But the minority leader didn't rule out the notion that Democrats also may increasingly look to big-money donors for help, acknowledging that money fuels the modern U.S. electoral system.

"You have to raise money to win the election. You're not going to unilaterally disarm," she said. "Does this [Supreme Court ruling] give us a little more opportunity for some [candidates] … I don't know. It remains to be seen."

Pelosi also noted her party isn't hurting for cash, as the Democratic Campaign Congressional Committee, the fundraising arm of House Democrats, outraised their Republican campaign counterparts by more than $15 million during 2013.

"We've outraised everybody," she said.

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Sean Lengell

Congressional Correspondent
The Washington Examiner