Will Supreme Court End Federal Limits on Campaign Donations?
The case has the official name of McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission but some people are already referring to it as “Citizens United II.” The issue is the constitutionality of federal law that caps the total amount of money individuals may contribute to candidates, parties, and certain political committees over a two-year period. Shaun McCutcheon, an active political contributor to the GOP and its candidates, challenged the caps, which are currently set at $117,000, as a violation of the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of speech.
Given the history of campaign finance laws in the Supreme Court since John Roberts and Samuel Alito joined the court in 2005, McCutcheon is likely to find a receptive audience. In fact, the Roberts Court has voted to limit or invalidate every campaign finance law it’s considered over the past seven years, usually by slim 5-4 margins. In 2006, the court said contribution limits may be constitutional, but struck down Vermont’s caps for being too low. In 2007, the court significantly narrowed a federal law barring the broadcast of “issue” ads in the weeks before an election if the ads mentioned a candidate’s name. In 2008, the court invalidated a public financing provision that raised the contribution limits for candidates running against privately financed opponents. In 2011, the justices held unconstitutional a law affording publicly financed candidates extra public funds to compete against the unlimited spending of candidates raising money privately.