Justice Stevens’s Solution for ‘Giant Step in Wrong Direction’

By:  Adam Liptak

WASHINGTON — Justice John Paul Stevens, who turned 94 on Sunday, is a mild man with an even temperament. He has a reverence for the Supreme Court, on which he served for almost 35 years until his retirement in 2010, and he is fond of his former colleagues.

But there was a hint of anger in some of his remarks when I went to see him last week in his Supreme Court chambers. He said the court had made a disastrous wrong turn in its recent string of campaign finance rulings.

“The voter is less important than the man who provides money to the candidate,” he said. “It’s really wrong.”

He talked about what he called a telling flaw in the opening sentence of last month’s big campaign finance ruling. He filled in some new details about the behind-the-scenes maneuvering that led to the Citizens United decision. And he called for a constitutional amendment to address what he said was the grave threat to American democracy caused by the torrent of money in politics.

Last month’s decision in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commissionstruck down aggregate contribution limits, allowing rich people to make donations to an unlimited number of federal candidates.

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