John McCain, who styles himself a campaign finance reformer, sought to make clear this afternoon that a Supreme Court ruling today striking down the "millionaire's amendment" does not affect the ban on soft money, six-figure donations to political parties.
“That ban is at the core of the reforms I worked for in the long bipartisan fight to pass campaign finance reform," the presumptive Republican nominee said in a statement. "The 'Millionaire's Amendment' was not part of the original legislation, and was added on the floor during debate.”
The high court ruled 5-4 that the amendment, which allows candidates to receive larger campaign contributions when their wealthy opponents spend heavily out of their own pockets, violates First Amendment rights to free speech and is an unfair way to help opponents of wealthy political candidates who spend from their personal fortunes.
But a campaign finance watchdog group reports that this election, fewer candidates appear to be spending enough of their own cash to trigger the "Millionaires' Amendment."
The Center for Responsive Politics also says that self-funded candidates typically lose, despite their big spending.
The Millionaires' Amendment, which was written into the landmark 2002 campaign finance law co-sponsored by McCain, is triggered when a self-funding candidate for the US House puts at least $350,000 more than his or her opponent into the race. (The trigger for US Senate races is based on the state's population and was not at issue in the case.) The law allows the self-funder's opponent to accept as much as three times more than the normal contribution limit from individuals. Also, his or her party can spend unlimited amounts to help the "poor" candidate.
Since it took affect in the 2004 election, about 110 congressional candidates have triggered the amendment, according to the Federal Election Commission.
About Political Intelligence
Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.