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Should the Supreme Court Uphold Personal Limits on Campaign Contributions?

Should the Supreme Court Uphold Personal Limits on Campaign Contributions?

The Supreme Court today will hear oral arguments in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, the latest campaign finance case to reach the highest court. The case will decide whether aggregate campaign spending limits – or limits on the total amount of money an individual can donate in any one election cycle – are constitutional.

Shaun McCutcheon, a Republican activist from Alabama, has joined with the Republican National Committee to argue against individual aggregate campaign spending limits. Currently, an individual may give no more than $123,200 in any one election cycle, abiding by limits both to individual candidates and to an overall limit. As Scotusblog explained, "In the last election cycle, 2011-2012, McCutcheon was prevented by the aggregate limits then in effect from going forward with a plan to contribute to twenty-eight different federal candidates ... and from donating what he planned to three committees set up by the national GOP."

"I'd like to see individuals have more influence," McCutcheon has said. "If the government tells you that you can't spend your money where you want, there should be a real, real good reason." John Ryder, general counsel for the Republican National Committee, argues that the current limit "stifles citizens' ability to engage in the political process by limiting the number of candidates they can support." Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., filed a brief calling for the elimination of aggregate limits.

But advocates of stronger campaign finance laws argue that striking down aggregate limits will have a corrupting influence on U.S. politics. "Striking down these limits would create obvious possibilities for even the most blatant forms of corruption: solicitations for hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars, creating the opportunity for transactions exchanging contributions for anticipated political favors from officeholders," Reps. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., and David Price, D-N.C., wrote in a brief supporting the FEC.

So should the Supreme Court uphold personal limits on campaign contributions? Here is the Debate Club's take:


The Arguments

#2
50 Pts
The Government Shutdown Shows Contribution Limits Are Needed More Than Ever

Yes – The Government Shutdown Shows Contribution Limits Are Needed More Than Ever

Blair Bowie Democracy Advocate at the U.S. Public Interest Research Group

#3
49 Pts
Striking Down Campaign Donation Limits Would Be a Radical Move

Yes – Striking Down Campaign Donation Limits Would Be a Radical Move

Lawrence Norden Deputy Director of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University

#4
46 Pts
Creating a Congress of the Rich and For the Rich

Yes – Creating a Congress of the Rich and For the Rich

Lawrence Lessig Professor of Law and Leadership at Harvard Law School

#5
45 Pts
The Supreme Court Could Be Creating a Right to Bribery

Yes – The Supreme Court Could Be Creating a Right to Bribery

Nick Nyhart , Kurt Walters Research and Policy Analyst, and President and CEO of Public Campaign

#6
34 Pts
A Knockout Blow for Campaign Finance Laws

Yes – A Knockout Blow for Campaign Finance Laws

Susan Lagon Senior Fellow at the Government Affairs Institute at Georgetown University

#8
-37 Pts
Ditch These Unconstitutional Limits on Campaign Spending

No – Ditch These Unconstitutional Limits on Campaign Spending

Rick Esenberg President and General Counsel of the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty

#9
-40 Pts
Freer Political Speech Strengthens Our Democracy

No – Freer Political Speech Strengthens Our Democracy

Ilya Shapiro Senior Fellow in Constitutional Studies at the Cato Institute


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