then why the recent decision ... that allowed individuals to contribute directly to *all* candidates, with no overall cap on contributions?
Because it'a a SUPREME COURT decision. We have three branches of government and only two are elected.
The supremes are appointed, for life (subject only to impeachment for high crimes, like the president). They have no re-election issues and can vote their mind without affecting their own tenure.
The court has repeatedly struck down campaign spending restrictions, because they're limits, not just on free speech, but on the POLITICAL speech that is the reason it is an enumerated right in the first place.
But it takes a while for a law to produce enough damage to give someone standing to challenge it, and to bring it to the supremes, and then they rule narrowly. Then, once a piece is struck down, Congress just turns around and does another version of it to evade the details of that decision, and the cycle starts over.
There are under 700 people that hit the max last time around, do you seriously think that decision will benefit the grass roots? Sounds to me like it's aimed squarely at giving the oligarchs more influence.
Of course it's the rich are the first who are bit and who have the resources to bring the suit. That's part of why the limits end up off the rich (like Soros) first, while they're still hobbling everybody else.
It isn't just the limits themselves that are an issue. There's all the reporting requirements, publication requirements, time limits, and maze of details that make compliance hard.
It's hard for candidates: They need a substantial political machine right off the bat. Getting dinged for campaign finance violations is costly, may involve jail time, DOES involve court time, and produces publicity that tarnishes the candidate's image and hurts his chances in future elections. This gives the professional politicians, especially incumbents with the machine in place, a massive advantage over any grass-roots upstarts trying to replace them.
And it can bring on reprisals against donors - including carreer-killing or physical retaliation. Who contributed to what political campaigns is public record and searchable online. This is an invitation to people with opposing views to exert social pressure or take revenge. (Within the last couple weeks we saw the CEO of Netscape forced to resign by just such pressure, as a result of the McCain-Feingold reporting of a past political contribution to a "politically-incorrect" campaign.)
It's the exact opposite of a secret ballot, which is secret to prevent such reprisals so the vote can be cast in safety. Why should financial support be any different? Why would publishing the amount and beneficiary of each contributor's political contributions be any less of a bias on the political system than publishing the way each voter voted?
Further, risking a job is far more of a hardship for a little guy living hand-to-mouth than a rich executive with millions in the bank and a golden parachute. So it's another force to suppress grass-roots opinion in favor of those who are independently wealthy or well-off.