Campaign finance ruling has injected less than $50M into midterms

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Just over 300 donors have taken advantage of the Supreme Court’s most recent loosening of campaign contribution regulations, injecting less than $50 million into U.S. politics ahead of the fall midterm elections, a new study concludes.

The high court in April struck down decades-old aggregate contribution limits — the maximum amount that a donor can give to federal candidates and political party committees throughout the course of a two-year election cycle — finding that the restrictions violated the Constitution’s protections for free speech.

Critics of the ruling in a case known as McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission warned that it would further open the floodgates of money into politics, increasing the clout of wealthy donors at the expense of ordinary voters.

Previously held to $123,200, donors can now theoretically contribute millions of dollars in a single cycle.

Thus far, however, that isn’t happening, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. The center’s analysis found that 310 donors have eclipsed the previous limit, and none has contributed close to the maximum possible under the new rules.

The study identifies philanthropist Marsha Z. Laufer as the top donor, having given $384,900 to Democrats. Investment firm founder Charles R. Schwab is listed as second, with $338,900 in contributions to Republicans.

The relaxed rules have thus far favored Republicans over Democrats by a 2-to-1 margin. The GOP has received roughly $33.3 million from donors who have exceeded previous limits, while Democrats have raked in $15.6 million, according to the center.