With intense competition between parties over election outcomes, with the stakes incredibly high over who will capture majorities in a polarized era, and with money everywhere and intense competition for dollars, the trade of favors for money—and the threat of damage for the failure to produce money—will be everywhere. Access to lawmakers, presidents, their aides, and subordinates is precious, including when they are actually marking up legislation. In the aftermath of Roberts’s decisions, this precious access will be sold to the highest bidders.
I remember well the pre-reform era where there were “Speaker’s Clubs” and “President’s Clubs” with menus for soft-money donors: for $10,000, lunch with key committee chairs and a day hobnobbing with important lawmakers and committee staffers; for $25,000, all that and a small breakfast or lunch with the speaker; and so on. Those will be back, with the dollar amounts higher and the access more intimate. Big donors will make clear to party leaders that multimillion-dollar donations are one step away—and will be forthcoming if only the leaders will understand the legislative needs of the donor. McCutcheon not only made all that legal but also gave it the Supreme Court’s seal of approval.
Oligarchs will rule.