High court to hear contentious campaign finance case
February 19th, 2013
11:17 AM ET
2 years ago

High court to hear contentious campaign finance case

Washington (CNN) – The Supreme Court will wade once again into the politically tricky issue of campaign finance laws, agreeing to hear a challenge to individual donation limits in federal election campaigns.

At issue is whether strict limits on direct campaign contributions by individuals– in the Federal Election Campaign Act– violate the First Amendment. Oral arguments will be held in the fall.

The appeal comes from Alabama donor Shaun McCutcheon, supported in court by the Republican National Committee. They object to a 1970s-era law restricting someone from giving no more than $46,200 to federal candidates, and $70,800 to political action committees, during a two-year election cycle.

McCutcheon says he has a constitutional right to donate over that amount to as many candidates as he wants, so long as no one candidate gets more than the current $2500 limit.

Lower federal courts have rejected his appeal.

This case deals with political contributions. A separate 2010 high court case dealt with campaign spending by outside groups, seeking to influence federal elections. There, the conservative majority– citing free speech concerns– eased long-standing restrictions on "independent spending" by corporations, labor unions, and certain non-profit advocacy groups in political campaigns.

The so-called "Citizens United" ruling helped open the floodgates to massive corporate spending in the 2012 elections and gave birth to super PACs - and trumps state laws. It also led to further litigation seeking to loosen current restrictions on both the spending and donations areas.

Supporters of campaign finance reform say such laws are designed to prevent corruption in politics. Opponents said it would criminalize free speech and association.

The case is McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission (12-536).


Filed under: Campaign finance • Fundraising • Supreme Court
soundoff (15 Responses)
  1. Rudy NYC

    This case is frivilous. McCutcheon is acting like a typical elitist who just wants to have things his way. Someone should tell him about superPACs, which render his entire argument moot.

    February 19, 2013 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  2. Sniffit

    "I'm being persecuted because I'm not allowed to use my money to negate all the votes cast by the middle-calass and poor."

    February 19, 2013 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  3. Sniffit

    "Alabama"

    I suppose we need no further explanation.

    February 19, 2013 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  4. Pete

    This McCutcheon donor just wants to have his bases covered doesn't he..Pres.Obama should get Citizens United overturned as soon as possible and should also whisper in all the republicans on the SCOTUS ears,your time is near beware ,I'm back for 4 more years and read what Roosevelt did when he was president so don't think that history can't repeat itself because in this case I'd like to see it!!

    February 19, 2013 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  5. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA

    The SCOTUS has sold this country out to the highest bidder.

    February 19, 2013 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  6. Ken in MD

    The First Amendment reads, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

    The freedom of speech part was put in there to make sure that people could not be arrested for speaking out against the country or its leaders. Where does it say anything about having the right to throw unlimited amounts of money at elections?

    February 19, 2013 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  7. Rudy NYC

    Sniffit

    "Alabama"

    I suppose we need no further explanation.
    ------------
    Nope, no further explanation required. Did you know Mississippi just passed the 13th Amendment? More than 100 years after the fact.

    February 19, 2013 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  8. Evergreen

    How does limiting the amount of money he can use for elections limit his freedom of speech? I guess they rest of us will eventually be priced out of 'freedom of speech.'

    February 19, 2013 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  9. Sniffit

    ""Alabama"

    I suppose we need no further explanation.
    ----
    Nope, no further explanation required. Did you know Mississippi just passed the 13th Amendment? More than 100 years after the fact."
    ===

    And some jackhole in Missouri just proposed legislation that would mke it a felony for anyone to even propose legislation that would create additional gun safety regulations.

    The South = Lincoln's Folly. Should have let them leave when we had the chance.

    February 19, 2013 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  10. Sniffit

    "Where does it say anything about having the right to throw unlimited amounts of money at elections?"

    Long ago, in an ideology far far away, the SCOTUS decided that spending money is a form of speech. Thus was born The United States of Plutocracy. Let the evisceration of your voting power flow through you, young padawan.

    February 19, 2013 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  11. Rudy NYC

    Ken in MD asked:

    The freedom of speech part was put in there to make sure that people could not be arrested for speaking out against the country or its leaders. Where does it say anything about having the right to throw unlimited amounts of money at elections?
    -----------------
    Because. Because our conservatives friends, who claim to follow the Constitition to the letter, have adopted the extremeily liberal and loose interpretation that money is free speech. If you ask me, for the federal government to support that opinion is a violation of the 1st Amendment, because it supports the conservative ideology that this nation was created for capitalists.

    February 19, 2013 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  12. Pam from Iowa

    what does buying an election have to do with free speech?
    Nothing!

    February 19, 2013 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  13. jboh

    If unlimited $ is OK, then the donors should have to disclose who they are. Hiding their ID's only serves to prevent true evaluation of their ads. Knowing who is behind the donations gives voters that ability.

    February 19, 2013 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  14. Sniffit

    "If unlimited $ is OK, then the donors should have to disclose who they are. Hiding their ID's only serves to prevent true evaluation of their ads. Knowing who is behind the donations gives voters that ability."

    Indeed. But such disclosure and honesty would discourage said ad spending, so let me give you ONE guess as to whether the MSM will team up wih the plutocrats to shoot it down.

    February 19, 2013 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  15. S.B. Stein E.B. NJ

    I am of the opinion that to have equal speech there should be a limit to the contributions. The Court has indicated that money is speech; therefore some people have more right to speech than others. I don't think that thinking is really good for our country. That limits the poor to have their say in the political and legislative process.

    @jboh - that is a great idea and should be done. Given the technology and issues of today, we need to know where people are coming from. We can't and shouldn't be persuaded by people with a clear agenda that isn't what the American people need.

    February 19, 2013 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |