Former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens is criticizing the high court's decision in McCutcheon v. Federal Elections Commission, telling the New York Times that the court took a "really wrong" step in its latest campaign finance ruling.
In a 5-4 decision earlier this month, the court struck down overall contribution limits to political campaigns. In an interview published Monday, Stevens told the Times he believes the majority opinion, penned by Chief Justice John Roberts, marks another wrong turn by the court on campaign finance issues.
"The voter is less important than the man who provides money to the candidate," Stevens said. "It's really wrong."
Stevens specifically took aim at the first line of Roberts' opinion, which reads, "There is no right more basic in our democracy than the right to participate in electing our political leaders."
"The first sentence here is not really about what the case is about," Stevens said. "The opinion is all about a case where the issue was electing somebody else’s representatives."
Stevens, who retired from the court in 2010, has fiercely defended campaign finance restrictions in the past. In his dissent in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the landmark ruling that greatly expanded the power of corporations, unions and advocacy groups to spend on elections, Stevens warned against interpreting free speech to include money.
"The Court’s ruling threatens to undermine the integrity of elected institutions across the Nation," Stevens wrote in the 2010 dissent. "The path it has taken to reach its outcome will, I fear, do damage to this institution."
In the Times interview, Stevens said the McCutcheon opinion holds to the belief that money qualifies as speech.
“I think that's an incorrect view of the law myself, but I do think there’s a consistency between that opinion and what went before," he said.
(h/t Talking Points Memo)