Commuting to Congress: Episode 3

Congressman John Sarbanes discusses his concerns about the upcoming Supreme Court Case, McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission.


Hello, this is John Sarbanes, thank you for tuning into Commuting to Congress, the online reflections of the lawmaker who, by day, gets an insider’s view on the nation’s capital, and at night, leaves the D.C. bubble and heads back home to the district. Today I wanted to talk about the McCutcheon case, which is a case the Supreme Court, in the last few days, decided to take. It’s a case that challenges the current limits that are put in place for the amount that a single contributor can give to all federal campaigns. These are limits that have been in place for decades, and the fact that the Court has taken this case causes me great concern because we’ve seen what they did with the Citizens United case recently, in terms of beginning to take limits off of what happens in the funding of our campaigns. The challenge in this case is to rules that say that the total amount of money that can be given across all congressional campaigns and federal campaigns by a single donor is $123,000 dollars. And if the Supreme Court decides to lift that limit, they might also go further and lift the limit on the amount that can be contributed to a single candidate from a contributor, which is now $2,600 dollars in a primary and $2,600 dollars in a general election. If they do that, if they take those limits off, then the Sheldon Adelsons of the world can come in and give $200,000 dollars to one candidate. And that will only contribute further to the perception that the public has that lawmakers, basically, are being owned by the special interests and aren’t responding to the concerns of the average person out there. It’s why I’m pushing so hard to try to reform the way we fund campaigns and, at least, create an option for candidates, grassroots candidates, to go out there, build support from grassroots donors and have that support matched with public dollars to amplify their voice. I’ve introduced the Grassroots Democracy Act, which would do just that. We’re going to keep up the fight to try to promote grassroots-funded, citizen-owned campaigns. At the end of the day, it comes down to the fundamental question of who’s going to own your government? Is it going to be special interests and big money, in which case, when it comes times to make policy, that’s the direction the institutions of Congress will lean towards. Or is it going to be the average person? Is it going to be you, the folks who can make a contribution, 5, 10, 15 dollars, and in return, just ask that their government respond to their interest and not the special interests. We’ll keep up that fight. I appreciate your being connected to this issue as we move forward, this issue of money in politics. Again, I’d like to thank you for tuning into Commuting to Congress. If you have any questions about this episode, or have an idea for an episode you’d like me to do in the future, please email me at, send me a tweet at JohnSarbanes, or post your idea on my Facebook page. Thank you.