Wednesday, April 2, 2014
A sharply divided Supreme Court today in McCutcheon v. FEC struck the aggregate federal campaign contribution limits. The five-justice majority ruled that the limits violated the First Amendment.
Chief Justice Roberts wrote the majority opinion, joined by Justices Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas, and Alito. Justice Breyer wrote the dissent, joined by Justices Ginsburg, Sotomayor, and Kagan.
Recall that aggregate limits restrict the total amount of money an individual can contribute to all candidates, PACs, and parties. Base limits, which were not at issue in the case, restrict the amount an individual can contribute to an individual candidate. (The Court said that base limits are still constitutional, as are disclosure requirements.)
The majority said that under aggregate limits
A donor must limit the number of candidates he supports, and may have to choose which of several policy concerns he will advance--clear First Amendment harms that the dissent never acknowledges.
It also said that aggregate limits do not control quid pro quo corruption or the appearance of corruption--the reasons that the Court has upheld individual limits.
The Court said that the government had other ways to advance its anti-circumvention interest--the interest in preventing a single donor from circumventing base limits by giving to multiple recipients with the expectation that they funnel the contributions to one candidate.
The ruling deals another major blow, after Citizens United, to efforts to restrict the amount of money in politics.