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U.S. Supreme Court Strikes Down Federal Aggregate Contribution Limits

On April 2, the U.S. Supreme Court issued this opinion in McCutcheon v Federal Election Commission, 12-536. The vote was 5-4. The majority struck down a federal law, passed in 1976, that restricts how much money a donor may contribute in total to all candidates or committees. The decision does not affect the contribution limit from an individual to a particular candidate, which is $2,600 in the primary season and another $2,600 in the general election.

The majority decision notes that, among the 38 states that have contribution limits, only eight states have aggregate limits. Justice Clarence Thomas wrote separately to say that he believes all contribution limits should be struck down. The majority opinion, by Chief Justice John Roberts, is 40 pages. The dissent, by Justice Stephen Breyer, is 30 pages and also has an Appendix of 13 pages with statistical data meant to show that the decision will make it easier for wealthy individuals to channel additional contributions to particular candidates.

13 Responses

  1. Demo Rep

    Which of the genius MORONS in SCOTUS can see ANY dollar amount in the 1st Amdt ???

    Thus – even more rotted attack ads coming in the marginal gerrymander areas for the suffering voters to ignore.

  2. WalterZiobro

    IMO, this is good news.

    There are 4 pillars that support the two-party system:

    1. Single member districts.
    2. Plurality voting.
    3. Restrictive petitioning and filing requirements.
    4. Restrictive campaign finance laws.

    The fourth pillar is crumbling. I hope the others will crumble soon, too.

    • Baronscarpia

      They probably will. And when that happens we can discard the party system entirely and return to 17th century when the landed aristocracy owned and ruled all.

      I don’t think they were too keen on third parties.

    • Pete Healey

      Walter, the following is a way to make the rest of the pillars fall:
      “With campaign finance reform beaten at every turn, can we now finally have the discussion about proportional, multi-party elections as a solution to this dilemma? It blunts the power of money, kills gerrymandering, and brings new actors to the stage!”

  3. baronscarpia

    “The decision does not affect the contribution limit from an individual to a particular candidate, which is $2,600 in the primary season and another $2,600 in the general election.”

    Richard…since you’ve defended the USSC’s inclination to put democracy on sale to the highest bidder, perhaps you can tell us what in the most recent decisions on campaign finance reassures you that these limits will not be swept away as well?

    • Richard Winger

      I would be thrilled to death if that limit were abolished. It probably would cost $50,000 for paid petitioners to get even one independent or minor party candidate on the ballot in Georgia for US House. That law has existed since 1943, the year I was born. I am not going to tolerate having lived my entire life without seeing even one minor party candidate on the ballot in Georgia for US House. If that limit were abolished, the goal could be realized.

      As is well-known, Eugene McCarthy could not have launched his 1968 presidential bid if our current campaign restrictions had been in place back then. He was funded by Stewart Mott, a multi-millionaire.

      • David

        So otherwise a person can only donate 5,200 to a Federal candidate, but can get around that be donating to other groups and political committee’s who then give 5,200 to the candidate? There are still limits to candidates for individuals.

        • Richard Winger

          The donor can’t do that if the donation to the group is earmarked for that particular candidate.

        • Baronscarpia

          But, David, Richard would be “thrilled to death” if we would let multi-billionaires pour as much money as they wish into the coffers of any candidate’s campaign.

          How about this for a simpler system? For any public office, rather than having an election, we have an auction? Highest bidder gets to appoint the president, senator, mayor, whatever.

          And some day, perhaps, Bill Gates will gent interested in Georgia politics, buy the ballot for one of the Georgia Congressional seats, and Richard can die a happy man if Bill decides to buy the seat for a Libertarian.

          Just imagine what a lovely, orderly America this will be. The rich will run everything because they’ve bought everything, including our representative government.

          And no pesky recounts!

          Richard – would a Koch monarchy qualify as a third party by your lights?

      • baronscarpia

        If airports were run the way you envision democracy, Richard, all the runways would be given over to privately owned Leerjets and those who didn’t own one would be told to take a bus or hitchhike.

        But at least now we know why you’re such an ardent supporter of the Citizens united ruling. You clearly equate wealth with access to the democratic process. With that as a backdrop, all of this attention to “ballot access” is just so much noise, or worse…subterfuge.

        The twentieth century was truly a bother for you, wasn’t it Richard? But for all that nettlesome governmental interference, we could have established an American aristocracy.

        Whatever was that revolution about, anyway?

        • David

          When Meg Whitman ran for California governor she spent a boat load of her money and she didn’t get elected. In 2012 they tried to buy the US Senate seat in Montana for Congressman Rehberg and he lost. Just having lots of money does not mean the election is in the bag.

          • Baronscarpia

            So, then…the people who made millions and billions of dollars did so by making stupid, nonproductive investments, on a serial basis? And that’s why The Adelsons and the Kochs and the Soros’s of the world piss away their money on political donations because why…because they’re stupid?

            Sorry, David…no sale. Richard has tried this Meg Whitman argument before and it didn’t make any more sense then. And even if I actually believed it, the people who want to put even more of their money into the American political process to buy influence and power don’t.

  4. Demo Rep

    The minority rule gerrymanders were in force without any need for any campaign finance laws.

    ANY money limits regarding the DOI in 1776, the 1776-1783 elections during the Am. Rev. WAR or the 1787-1788 State Ratifying Conventions ???

    P.R. and nonpartisan App.V.

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