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Will another campaign finance limit fall? SCOTUS to hear case challenging contribution caps

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Will another campaign finance limit fall? SCOTUS to hear case challenging contribution caps

Feb 20, 2013, 09:10 am CDT

The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to consider a challenge to individual campaign contribution limits in the case of a Republican supporter unable to donate to a dozen candidates after hitting the aggregate cap.

The case challenges limits on individual contributions upheld in the 1976 Supreme Court decision Buckley v. Valeo, report the New York Times, the National Law Journal, the Washington Post, SCOTUSblog and the Montgomery Advertiser.

Buckley v. Valeo justified contribution limits because of the potential for corruption. Since the decision, SCOTUSblog says, “the Supreme Court has always given government more leeway to control contributions to candidates or political organizations than over spending by candidates or by independent political activists. That differing constitutional treatment potentially is at stake in the new case.”

A plaintiff in the lawsuit, Alabama businessman Shaun McCutcheon, had contributed to 16 federal candidates, but the restrictions barred him from donating to 12 more, the Times says. He also was unable to donate $25,000 each to three political action committees.

Current regulations bar individuals from making overall contributions over a two-year period that exceed $46,200 for candidates and $70,800 for party committees and political action committees.

The Times says the challenge could be “the most important federal campaign finance case since the court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United,” a First Amendment decision that allowed unlimited independent campaign spending by corporations and unions.

McCutcheon is represented by James Bopp, who represented the Citizens United group before its campaign spending challenge reached the U.S. Supreme Court. He told the Montgomery Advertiser that current law permits an uneven playing field. Advocacy groups and super PACs can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money to support or oppose candidates, while candidates and parties are limited. “Candidates should be central to our system, but they are the ones limited, while super PACs and advocacy groups can just go wild,” he said.

The case is McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission.

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