Supreme Court strikes down campaign donation caps

Supreme Court strikes down campaign donation caps

SUPREME COURT:On a 5-4 vote, the court struck down the overall limits on how much individuals can give to candidates, parties and political action committees in total during the federal two-year election cycle. Photo: Reuters

By Lawrence Hurley

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday expanded how much political donors can give candidates and parties in federal elections by striking down a key pillar of campaign finance law.

On a 5-4 vote, the court struck down the overall limits on how much individuals can give to candidates, parties and political action committees in total during the federal two-year election cycle.

The ruling leaves in place base limits on how much a donor can give individual candidates and laws that require candidates, parties and political action committees to disclose information about donors.

The court was divided over how sweeping the ruling actually is. The biggest impact is that a single donor can now give the maximum amount by law to as many federal candidates, parties and committees as he or she wishes.

The 5-4 split was along party lines, with the five justices appointed by Republican presidents joining the majority and the four appointed by Democratic presidents dissenting.

Chief Justice John Roberts, writing on behalf of the court, said the justices did not reach the question of whether to overturn a key 1976 ruling, called Buckley v. Valeo, which upheld limits on campaign finance donations while also describing how courts should analyze such regulations. Justice Clarence Thomas, who voted with Roberts, said the court had gone further than the chief justice claimed.

Roberts said in his opinion that the aggregate limits violated the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which protects free speech. He rejected the contention of President Barack Obama’s administration that the limits are needed to fight corruption.

The caps “do little, if anything, to address that concern, while seriously restricting participation in the democratic process,” wrote Roberts, appointed by former President George W. Bush, a Republican.

The decision comes four years after the court’s landmark Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling that cleared the way for increased independent corporate and union spending during federal elections.

In a dissenting opinion, Justice Stephen Breyer said the ruling, along with Citizens United, “eviscerates our nation’s campaign finance laws.”

Wednesday’s ruling could threaten the legal architecture that underpins other campaign finance regulations.

The aggregate limits have been in place, in various forms, since 1974, with the most recent version dating back to the 2002 Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act.

Republican donor Shaun McCutcheon, an Alabama businessman, and the Republican National Committee (RNC) had challenged the contribution caps. Before Wednesday’s Supreme Court decision, donors could not exceed the $123,200 overall limit during the two-year period.

The case is McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commision, U.S. Supreme Court, 12-536.

(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Howard Goller)

Recent Headlines

in Entertainment

‘Mortdecai,’ ‘American Ultra’ among the year’s biggest box office flops


The list of this year's most disappointing box office performers is out.

in Black Friday, Lifestyle

Three ways to curb holiday spending


Ah, the holidays. A time to get together, celebrate with family and make questionable life choices.

in Entertainment

WATCH: 7 fun facts to make you think this Thanksgiving


Thanksgiving is a time of coming together with family and friends. In between bites of stuffing and pumpkin pie, snack on these unusual Turkey Day facts.

in Black Friday, Entertainment

Change your Amazon password now


With Black Friday and Cyber Monday quickly approaching, this might be the worst time of year for Amazon to have security concerns.

in Black Friday, Entertainment

PHOTOS: Macy’s Parade through the years


For 88 years the iconic Macy's Parade has been a Thanksgiving tradition.