By Bradley A. Smith
No doubt you’ve heard of Oprah—one doesn’t even need to say her last name. She is so influential that a study by University of Maryland Profs. Craig Garthwaite and Tim Moore found that her endorsement of Barack Obama was worth more than a million votes in the 2008 Democratic presidential primaries—more than the difference between then-Sen. Obama and his main rival, Hillary Clinton.
Chances are you’ve never heard of Shaun McCutcheon, who hopes to have a fraction of Oprah’s influence on elections. Mr. McCutcheon faces one problem: The federal government could jail him for five years if he implements his plan. So he has taken his case to court, and on Oct. 8 the Supreme Court will hear oral argument in McCutcheon v. FEC. This case could be as important to campaign-finance law as Citizens United v. FEC, which in 2010 restored the rights of corporations and unions to engage in political speech.
Mr. McCutcheon owns a company that designs and builds electrical systems for projects such as clean coal-liquefaction. His financial success has allowed the longtime Republican activist to use his money to support GOP candidates.