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Observers don’t expect big change in Indiana giving

The Indiana Republican Party chairman doubts that federal candidates, parties and political action committees will see a flood of financial contributions after Wednesday’s Supreme Court decision.

“You still cannot write unlimited checks,” Tim Berry said in a telephone interview.

The justices ruled 5-4 that while donors can spend as much money as they like on elections, it will have to be spread around. They still have to obey curbs on contributions to a single federal candidate, party committee or PAC.

“It does mean there will be more individuals that could potentially receive contributions,” said Berry, a Fort Wayne native.

All things considered, “I think today’s ruling really is a victory for transparency of campaign contributions,” Berry said. Anyone who donates to a candidate, party or PAC must give his name, address and employer.

Indiana Democratic Party Chairman John Zody sounded unfazed by the court ruling. Zody said in a statement that the party “will continue to build our coalition, raise funds from donors big and small and elect Democrats to office who will advocate fair, transparent and balanced elections. Today’s decision by the Roberts Court doesn’t change that.”

IPFW political scientist Michael Wolf said recent Supreme Court decisions that have eliminated campaign finance constraints are a double-edged sword.

“I guess you can hold contending views on this – not wanting freedom of expression limited but also preferring that money played less of a role in electing candidates and setting the often negative agenda and tone of our electoral system,” Wolf said in an email.

“It’s the eternal issue of American politics: having an extremely limited government relative to any other advanced industrial democracy means we do not want government regulating the marketplace or the marketplace of ideas much at all, but we have a distaste for the consequences of that in practice,” he said.

Because Indiana campaign law does not restrict how much money people can give to local and state candidates and political parties, Wednesday’s decision should have no effect on state politics, Berry said.

Wolf agreed: “I do not think this has much bearing on Indiana beyond congressional elections as the Indiana code has fewer limitations than the laws dealing with federal candidates.”

What remains to be seen is how many donors will spend more than the $123,200 they have been restricted to in election cycles before Wednesday’s court ruling.

Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post wrote Wednesday that fewer than 700 people in the 2012 election cycle gave the maximum amount allowed – $74,600 – to a national party committee.

bfrancisco@jg.net

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