Supreme Court Considering Campaign Limits
Today the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments on overturning the aggregate biennial individual limits of $48,600 to candidates and $74,600 to political parties and committees. Currently, individuals may give up to $2,600 per election directly to a candidate, for a total of $5,200 per cycle. Furthermore, they may give up to $5,000 per year to federal PACs, and up to $15,000 per year to federal party committees. Shaun McCutcheon of Alabama, who brought the case for appealing the limits, states that the biennial limits restrict his first amendment right to free speech, noting that the current limits require him to choose between the issues and candidates that he supports. Mr. McCutcheon, through his attorney, noted that the current system does not allow people to support as many candidates as they would like directly, thereby forcing them to support super PACs or fund independent expenditures. While the limits to each candidate would not change, overturning current law would allow him to give to up to the $5,200 limit to more candidates without exceeding the limit.
The more conservative justices don’t seem to think that appealing the limits will create a situation that would exert significant influence; however the case against overturning the limits notes that great sums of money could certainly tip the balance in close races. Furthermore, Donald Verrilli of the Department of Justice noted that “there is a real risk that the government could be run by these 500 [of the wealthiest] people.” With no limits, Individuals with significant means would be able to spend up to $5,200 per candidate in the 2014 election cycle, for a total of nearly $2.5 million. They would be allowed to give up $1.2 million to the party committees. Maintaining limits also forces candidates to seek money from a broader group of donors, thereby democratizing the process.
The decision will be made at the end of the Autumn session.