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:
Liz Kennedy Counsel at Demos
Blair Bowie Democracy Advocate at the U.S. Public Interest Research Group
Lawrence Norden Deputy Director of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University
Hans A. Von Spakovsky Senior Legal Fellow at the Heritage Foundation
Rick Esenberg President and General Counsel of the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty