Ahead of midterms, political parties get a boost from Supreme Court

The full impact of the Supreme Court's decision on Wednesday to wipe out aggregate political contribution limits may not be felt for years to come. In the 2014 midterm elections, however, the biggest beneficiary of the decision could be the campaign arms for political parties -- groups like the Republican National Committee (RNC), the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), or the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC).

Republicans in support of the Supreme Court ruling acknowledged as much this week: RNC Chairman Reince Priebus called the case, McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, "an important first step toward restoring the voice of candidates and party committees and a vindication for all those who support robust, transparent political discourse."

Democrats, however, found themselves in a more awkward spot: The party has railed against the Supreme Court ruling, calling it an injury to democracy. They may even be able to exploit the ruling to amplify their campaign message against Republicans, arguing that the conservative court has helped the GOP stack the political deck in favor of America's wealthiest 1 percent. At the same time, Democrats had to acknowledge that their party apparatus stands to benefit from the ruling probably as much as Republicans do.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., on Thursday illustrated how the ruling fits into the Democrats' 2014 economic message: "It's really outrageous, especially when you see that the very same people who are putting up all this money are the very same people who are opposed to raising minimum wage, are the very same people who are advocating no regulation -- whether it's clean air, clean water, food safety -- all of those things that are our responsibility to the American people," she said.

Still, she said, "The fact is, is that you have to raise money to win the election. You're not going to unilaterally disarm."

The McCutcheon ruling didn't eliminate the maximum amount an individual can donate to a single candidate or political party in a two-year election cycle -- those limits are still $2,600 to a candidate, $32,400 to a national political party and $5,000 to a political committee. Instead, it wiped out overall limits: Previously, an individual could donate a maximum of $48,600 to all candidates and an overall maximum of $74,600 to PACs and parties. Now, a wealthy donor can give $2,600 to as many candidates they want.

In the years to come, political operatives are likely to create more PACs to exploit the new rules. This year, the political parties stand to benefit. That's because previously, a wealthy donor could theoretically give $32,400 to the RNC and $32,400 to the NRCC, but the old $74,600 limit would prevent them from giving $32,400 to the National Republican Senatorial Committee as well. Now a donor could give to all three -- and they could give the maximum $10,000 to each state arm of the GOP.

"The amount of money you can contribute to political parties goes from about $74,000 under the limits to something close to $700,000 now," Bob Biersack of the nonprofit, nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics explained to CBS News. "Somebody can basically give 10 times as much as they could have three days ago."

Koch and allies hit back: As part of the Democrats' efforts to portray the GOP as the party of the 1 percent, they've targeted the billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch for injecting vast sums of money into conservative political campaigns. However, the Koch brothers and other conservatives aren't letting those attacks go unanswered.

In a Wall Street Journal op-ed, Charles Koch says that "instead of welcoming free debate," his critics are engaging in "character assassination."

Meanwhile, the conservative group American Commitment has released a web ad attacking California billionaire Tom Steyer as the Democrats' own wealthy benefactor.


Oprah to fundraise for Virginia Democrat: After facing some backlash in 2008 for her support for then-candidate Barack Obama, media mogul Oprah Winfrey subsequently toned down her public participation in politics. She declined to campaign for the president's 2012 re-election, citing her busy schedule reviving her network. This year, though, she's back on the campaign trail -- she's the star guest this Saturday at a fundraiser for Democrat Lavern Chatman, who is running to replace retiring Rep. Jim Moran, D-Va., in Virginia's 8th district.

Tickets for the general reception run as low as $150, while the Chatman campaign is offering a photo with Oprah and "premiere" seating for $2,600.

Chatman is one of 11 Democrats running to replace Moran.

Georgia Dem spotlights her work with former President Bush: Georgia's likely Democratic Senate candidate Michelle Nunn is best known as the daughter of former Sen. Sam Nunn, D-Ga. Yet in her first ad, she's highlighting her work with former President George H.W. Bush.

"Some people ask me why, with all the dysfunction in Washington, I'm running for Senate," she says in the ad. "In the end, I think it comes down to me being an optimist. While leading President Bush's Points of Light Foundation, we grew it into the world's largest organization dedicated to volunteer service."

Nunn is one of four Democrats seeking the nomination to replace retiring Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga. On the Republican side, there are seven candidates in the running. The Georgia Senate race should be one of this year's most competitive.

Kentucky candidate says cockfighting a state issue: Tea party-aligned businessman Matt Bevin, who is running a primary challenge against Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., spoke at a pro-cockfighting rally last week, though he later claimed he didn't realize what the event was for. Bevin said he thought the event was a rally for states' rights, the Lexington Herald-Leader reports.

In any event, Bevin's campaign told the newspaper that Bevin believes regulating cockfights should be up to the states. The farm bill that Congress passed this year makes it a federal crime to attend a cockfight or dogfight.

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