After the 2002 election cycle, national parties were banned from receiving soft money – the unlimited donations from corporations, unions and individuals that often came in $50,000 or $100,000 chunks on behalf of a Congressional member who solicited the money (and sometimes coincidental sponsored legislations for the donor). The Republican National Committee challenged that ban in 2008, arguing that it “severely restrict[s] the ability of political parties to finance political activities” that are protected by the Constitution. The US Supreme Court this week rejected the RNC’s challenge – at least for now.
In a commentary about the decision (called “a win for democracy”), the Brennan Center notes that the parties have in fact not been “severely restricted,” but have made up for the lose of big money with a greater reliance on individuals giving small donations. Actually, data collected by the Campaign Finance Institute from the Federal Election Commission shows that the two major parties have made up for the lose of $300 million in soft money raised in the 2000 election by collecting millions more from individuals giving in all donation-size ranges. Donors giving $200 or less gave the two national parties $187 million in 2008, up from $132 million in 2000; individuals giving from $20,000 to the legal limit of $30,400 supplied $174 million in 2008, up from $34 million in 2000.
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