WASHINGTON -- The Supreme Court's latest campaign finance ruling is a mind-bogglingly "naive" and "amateurish" decision that only promotes the power of the rich and pushes the United States closer to a Ukraine-like nation ruled by oligarchs, Democrats charged Wednesday.
The court ruled Wednesday in McCutcheon v. FEC that there should be no aggregate limit on how much money the wealthy can donate to campaigns, and that they should be able to give the maximum allowable to every campaign and committee in the country that they like. Until the ruling, that overall limit was $123,200.
Speaking to reporters about the decision, Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) argued that the justices displayed a fundamental ignorance about politics and the potential for the rich to buy power.
"This is a court that knows essentially nothing about elections. It's the first court in a long time on which no one has ever run for office," said Whitehouse, comparing the five justices who ruled for businessman Shaun McCutcheon to "the ultimate amateur ... who says, 'I know how to eat, so I can open a restaurant.'"
"The discussion of corruption and how it works in elections is amateurish and naive to an extreme that boggles the mind, and it really makes me wonder whether they thought this through or whether they just needed to check that box in order to get where they wanted to go," Whitehouse said.
Where the justices wanted to go, the senators said, was to carry out an agenda that looks like a Republican Party wish list.
Schumer said that in terms of electoral politics, Wednesday's decision would likely be a "wash" without huge effects, but he added that it would be a step in a destructive direction, and would give the rich more power.
"This is not a decision that advantages one party over another," said Schumer. "It advantages the very wealthy over everybody else."
He also argued that the majority's logic in the case suggested they will eventually undo all campaign limits.
"I would like to say to Justice [Anthony] Kennedy, 'Do you know how you're ruining democracy in this country in a sort of guise of improving free speech?'" Schumer said, referring to the justice who often provides the swing vote on controversial cases. "I don't think the Koch brothers lack for free speech."
He argued that eventually the court will overturn enough laws to return the political landscape to something out of the 1890s.
"They want to dismantle all limits on giving, piece by piece, until we are back to the days of the robber barons," Schumer said. "The direction the court is headed in is just dramatic, and just dark."
Whitehouse compared the future of the U.S. to the infamously corrupt politics of Ukraine.
"It's a little ironic that we're spending so much time and energy and effort trying to support Ukraine as it emerges from corrupt and oligarchic government, while we have a Supreme Court that is busily at home kicking down the protections that protect American democracy from that same kind of oligarchic government," Whitehouse said.
It wasn't just Democrats complaining. Reform-minded Republicans also voiced their grievances, including Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who was one of the lead authors of the last major campaign finance reform with then-Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.).
"I am concerned that today's ruling may represent the latest step in an effort by a majority of the Court to dismantle entirely the longstanding structure of campaign finance law erected to limit the undue influence of special interests on American politics," McCain said in a statement. "I predict that as a result of recent Court decisions, there will be scandals involving corrupt public officials and unlimited, anonymous campaign contributions that will force the system to be reformed once again.”
Michael McAuliff covers Congress and politics for The Huffington Post. Talk to him on Facebook.