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« Senate Race A Warning For Patrick | Blog Home Page | AZ Sen Poll: McCain Opens Primary Lead »

Who Won and Lost In The Supreme Court Decision

If there was any question which political party was the winner and loser in the Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United v. FEC, just take a look at the instant reactions by congressmen and senators. Although the 2002 McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform bill was technically bipartisan, many Republicans have been against it from the beginning and were overjoyed following the 5-4 decision that overturned key parts of the bill.

"Freedom won today in the Supreme Court," said House GOP Conference Chairman Mike Pence, who's considering a run for Senate in Indiana. "In 2003, the Supreme Court unwisely supported the oppressive restrictions on free speech that were part of the 2002 campaign finance law. At the time, I was honored to stand with Senator Mitch McConnell and various state and national organizations in challenging this historic error in court."

McConnell, now the Senate minority leader, was similarly approving of the decision. "For too long, some in this country have been deprived of full participation in the political process," he said. "Our democracy depends upon free speech, not just for some but for all."

The "deprived" McConnell mentioned are corporations, whose limitations on political donations were lifted with this ruling. As Michael Waldman, executive director at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU law school, wrote today in an op-ed in the Washington Post, "An immediate question raised by the...decision is whether this will flood elections with suddenly legal corporate money."

Democrats absolutely think it will -- and don't like it. Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine said the decision "will allow the money of corporate interests to flood the political process, will undermine free and fair elections and further erode voters' confidence in our system of Democracy." He called it "a major victory for oil companies, banks, health insurance companies and other special interests that already use their power over Washington to drown out the voices of regular Americans."

Some political operatives aren't so sure it's a win-lose situation for the parties just yet. Roy Behr, a Democratic consultant in California, says, "Predicting the long-term impact on a decision like this is a lot like trying to predict the weather six months from now -- the truth is we really don't know." However, Behr said, for candidates with a few deep-pocketed donors, "this could be an incredibly liberating decision."

"There could be hundreds of thousands if not millions in spending that candidates wouldn't have seen before," he said.

In his Daily Beast column and in an e-mail to RCP, Mark McKinnon, a former adviser to John McCain and George W. Bush, notes that big donors from both parties are the real winners -- and there's one main loser.

"It's great for labor. It's great for business. It's lousy for voters," McKinnon told RCP.