Bob Schieffer and Brian Williams Lament SCOTUS Campaign Finance Decision

Both CBS's Bob Schieffer and NBC's Brian Williams cried foul on Wednesday evening at the Supreme Court striking down the cap on overall political donations, showing sympathy for supporters of the law.

Schieffer lamented that "More and more, the very rich are taking control of our politics" and that "this ruling is just one more sign that we no longer have any campaign laws that really matter."  Brian Williams actually quoted liberal Justice Stephen Breyer and asked what opponents of the decision could do.

"And Pete, back to the 'voice of the people' as Justice Breyer put it, for the people who think what happened today was bad, looking for remedies, what would those be?" Williams asked. He echoed the liberal line that the wealthy could enjoy more influence, saying the Court was "allowing wealthy donors to have an even bigger influence in politics."

And although the ruling could benefit both parties, NBC highlighted only the advantage Republicans might enjoy in correspondent Pete Williams's report.

"Supporters of the law that was struck down say look no further than what happened last weekend in Las Vegas," Williams said of the liberal opposition to the decision. "Three potential Republican candidates for president, including Governor Chris Christie, showed up at an event put on by billionaire casino owner Sheldon Adelson, who along with his wife spent more than $93 million in the 2012 elections. The candidates were clearly there to woo him and his sizeable checkbook."

Below are the transcripts of the segments:

NBC
NIGHTLY NEWS
4/2/14
[7:05 p.m. EST]

BRIAN WILLIAMS: The Supreme Court today further opened the floodgates on the role of big money in American politics. In a 5-4 decision, the justices struck down restrictions long in place on the grand total any one person can contribute to all federal candidates for office, allowing wealthy donors to have an even bigger influence in politics. Our justice correspondent, Pete Williams at the Supreme Court for us tonight. Pete, good evening.

PETE WILLIAMS: Brian, good evening. The Court left intact how much any person can give to a single federal candidate, but it did away with the limit on how much anybody can give to all candidates put together.

(Video Clip)

PETE WILLIAMS: (voice over) A deeply divided court today struck down a post-Watergate ceiling on how much any one person can give in total political contributions during a campaign. Now almost $49,000 to all candidates and another roughly $75,000 to all political parties and PACs. The five-member majority said the Court has long found political spending to be free speech. Chief Justice John Roberts said the government can no more restrict how many candidates a donor may support than it may tell a newspaper how many candidates it may endorse.

Dramatically summarizing the dissent, justice Stephen Breyer said the ruling eviscerates the nation's campaign finance laws, letting the rich drown out other views. "Where big money calls the tune," he said, "the voices of the people will not be heard." Supporters of the law that was struck down say look no further than what happened last weekend in Las Vegas.

UNIDENTFIED MAN: Ladies and gentlemen, Governor Scott Walker.

PETE WILLIAMS: Three potential Republican candidates for president including Governor Chris Christie, showed up at an event put on by billionaire casino owner Sheldon Adelson, who along with his wife spent more than $93 million in the 2012 elections. The candidates were clearly there to woo him and his sizeable checkbook.

JOHN KASICH (R), Governor of Ohio: Hey, listen. Sheldon, thanks for inviting me.

PETE WILLIAMS: Supporters of the contribution limits say the ruling increases the political power of the super rich like Adelson.

ROBERT WEISSMAN, Public Citizen president: Now he can give more money directly to congressional candidates than he was able to do before today's decision came down.

PETE WILLIAMS: The ruling undoubtedly means more big money in politics.

CHUCK TODD, NBC News chief White House correspondent: Today's ruling is going to cause the same explosion of spending on congressional races that we've seen on the presidential level. In 2000, Bush and Gore spent a combined $130 million on that general election. 12 years later, Obama and Romney spent $2 billion.

PETE WILLIAMS: But Republicans called the ruling a victory for political freedom.

REINCE PRIEBUS, Republican National Committee chair: It brings the political parties, I think the most accountable groups in America, a little bit closer to exercising our First Amendment rights just like everybody else.

(End Video Clip)

PETE WILLIAMS: Republicans were hoping the court would use this case to strike down nearly all limits on campaign contributions, but only one justice, Clarence Thomas, seemed willing to go that far, Brian.

BRIAN WILLIAMS: And Pete, back to the voice of the people as Justice Breyer put it, for the people who think what happened today was bad, looking for remedies, what would those be?

PETE WILLIAMS: Well, there's not much Congress can do because the Court said this is based on the Constitution, and there are indications in this ruling that the court seems willing to strike down more and more contribution limits as they come here. The John Roberts court has yet to uphold a challenged contribution limit.

(...)

CBS
EVENING NEWS
4/2/14
[6:35 p.m. EST]

BOB SCHIEFFER: Scott, for all practical purposes, this ruling is just one more sign that we no longer have any campaign laws that really matter. More and more, the very rich are taking control of our politics. They don't control it yet, but their influence just keeps growing, and this ruling will make it easier for them. Relaxing previous campaign laws has already changed our politics dramatically. Instead of working to form the bipartisan coalitions that once produced the compromises that made Washington work, the emphasis now is almost solely on raising money to run attack ads, as we saw when a parade of wanna-be Republican presidential candidates flew to Las Vegas last week to show off for Sheldon Adelson, the casino owner who contributed an astounding $93 million to candidates in 2012. As week in and week out, no matter the crisis at the moment, the President find time to fly off in Air Force One for yet another fund raiser with the Democrats' big guys. The question is what are we getting for all this money? Does anyone really believe Washington is working better than it used to? I don't.

Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro was a News Analyst for the Media Research Center's News Analysis Division from 2010 through early 2014