SCOTUS may be ready to strike down aggregate campaign donation limits for individuals

U.S. Supreme Court

SCOTUS may be ready to strike down aggregate campaign donation limits for individuals

Oct 9, 2013, 01:12 pm CDT

The U.S. Supreme Court appears poised to strike down aggregate limits on direct contributions from individuals to candidates, according to some news outlets that covered oral arguments (PDF) on Tuesday.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. is likely the swing vote, and he indicated he was likely to strike down overall limits on contributions to several candidates, the New York Times reports. The National Law Journal and the Washington Post agreed with that assessment. Roberts may be inclined, however, to uphold limits on overall contributions to political action committees, the Times says.

The aggregate limit on contributions is “telling someone who wants to contribute to more than nine candidates, he can’t contribute to the tenth,” Roberts said. “It seems a very direct restriction on much smaller contributions that Congress said do not present a problem with corruption.”

The Los Angeles Times said the justices were “sharply divided,” but notes the addition of Roberts and Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. to the court established a five-person majority to act against campaign finance restrictions. SCOTUSblog noted a lack of consensus and lots of questions about “the nuts and bolts” of campaign finance.

The case, McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, tests the constitutionality of regulations that currently bar individuals from making overall contributions over a two-year period that exceed $48,600 for federal candidates and $74,600 for party committees and political action committees. The lead plaintiff, Shaun McCutcheon, had a successful electrical engineering business and is interested in politics.

Prior coverage: “Chemerinsky: Campaign finance, affirmative action will top Supreme Court’s new term”

ABA Journal: “Campaign funding and affirmative action come back before the Supreme Court” “Next big case on campaign contribution limits likely depends on chief justice’s vote” “Will another campaign finance limit fall? SCOTUS to hear case challenging contribution caps”

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