The Supreme Court Wednesday ruled, 5-4, that caps on the total amount of money an individual can give to political campaigns and PACs are unconstitutional.
The court's Republican-appointed justices joined in overturning the so-called aggregate limits on the grounds that they violated the First Amendment. Democratic appointees dissented and said the limits were constitutional as a means to guard against corruption and circumvention of the still-valid limits on donations to individual campaigns and political committees.
The case, McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, marks the most consequential campaign finance ruling from the high court since the landmark Citizens United decision in 2010.
In the majority opinion of the court by Chief Justice Roberts, the court ruled that the limits violate the First Amendment. The "aggregate limits do not further the permissible governmental interest in preventing quid pro quo corruption or its appearance," the majority opinion read.
Shaun McCutcheon, the lead plaintiff in the case, challenged the limit on donations individuals can give to candidates and political organizations, saying it limited his First Amendment rights. It challenged section 441 of the Federal Election Campaign Act, which provides a biennial aggregate limit on the amount individuals can donate.
Brad Smith, a former Federal Elections Commissioner chairman, now head of the Center For Competitive Politics, wrote on Facebook:
McCutcheon wins, 5-4 in Supreme Court this morning. This is another victory for liberty and for more competitive political campaigns. For those who don't spend every moment thinking campaign finance, the law allows McCutcheon to give up to $2600 to a candidate, but only to 18 candidates. McCutcheon, who wants to support a whole bunch of challengers in congressional races, wants to know why candidates 1 through 18 are not "corrupted" by his contribution, but the government believes that candidate 19 is.
Again, what is remarkable is that 4 justices think this type of nonsensical regulation of political speech and activity is perfectly OK.
But others were not pleased by the court ruling.
KOCHS WIN KOCHS WIN KOCHS WIN KOCHS WIN KOCHS WIN KOCHS WIN KOCHS WIN KOCHS WIN KOCHS WIN KOCHS WIN KOCHS WIN KOCHS WIN- Andrew Stiles (@AndrewStilesUSA) April 2, 2014
Roberts Court record (beyond ACA): expanding donor rights and allowing for limits on voter rights.- Sam Stein (@samsteinhp) April 2, 2014