Politics

Supreme Court Strikes Down Big Limit On Campaign Donations

In a 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court has struck down the law that limits how much money overall you can give to candidates, parties and PACs.

Supreme Court Strikes Down Big Limit On Campaign Donations
U.S. Department Of Agriculture

It was referred to as the next Citizens United. In a 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court has struck down the federal law that limits how much money you can give to candidates, parties and PACs combined. 

Before the court was the case of Shaun McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission. (Via U.S. Supreme Court

This is the first major campaign finance challenge since Citizens United — the 2010 decision that essentially opened the door to unlimited corporate and union spending. (Via U.S. Supreme Court

But the rules work differently for individuals. Currently, federal law lets individuals donate up to $2,600 to federal candidates during a single election cycle. And over two years, donors can only give up to $123,000 to candidates, political action committees and parties. (Via Flickr / Ed Shipul

It's that second limitation that conservative Alabama businessman Shaun McCutcheon had a problem with — he said the number was too small.

MCCUTCHEON: "It doesn't make any sense that, say, my 18th race was an Alabama house race and then I also wanted to donate to a Florida senate race, that I couldn't do that." (Via CBS

At the heart of this case was the argument that campaign contributions are a form of free speech, and like most speech, should not be regulated by government. And the court agreed — at least the conservative justices did. (Via Euronews

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in his opinion, "There is no right in our democracy more basic ... than the right to participate in electing our political leaders." (Via U.S. Supreme Court

On the other side, the F.E.C., along with the White House, argued the aggregate limits were needed to fight political corruption.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: "The latest case would go even further than Citizens United. … It would say anything goes: There are no rules in terms of how to finance campaigns." (Via The White House

To be clear, the pre-existing limits on contributions to individual candidates remain intact under Wednesday's ruling.

But even with that limit in place, as CNN notes, the court's decision could in theory allow a wealthy donor to donate "a maximum of $3.6 million to the national and state parties, and the 450 or so Senate and House candidates expected to run in 2014."

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, nearly 650 donors contributed the maximum amount to candidates, parties and PACs during the last election cycle.