Supreme Court to consider lifting donation limits
In a move that could lift curbs on political donations, the US Supreme Court said that it would consider a legal action contesting the limit on how much individuals can donate to election candidates and political parties.
The court will hear the appeal of Shaun McCutcheon, an Alabama businessman and a Republican activist, and the Republican National Committee who argue that it is unconstitutional to stop donors giving more than $46,200 (€34,000) to candidates and $70,800 to political actions committees (PACs) that campaign for or against candidates every two years.
The case aims to remove the $123,200 aggregate limit to all federal candidates, parties and traditional PACs during a two-year election cycle. Supporters of the restrictions on political contributions say if they win the appeal, it would allow a single individual to inject millions of dollars into the campaign bank accounts of candidates and parties, giving a small, wealthy group of donors excessive influence.
Mr McCutcheon has accepted that he can only give $2,500 to a single candidate but is arguing that he should be entitled to give that sum of money to as many Republican candidates as he wants.
The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia upheld the limits on aggregate election donations but the Supreme Court has now decided to review that decision.
If the Supreme Court rules against the limit on election donations, it would be the first time that a court has overturned the landmark Buckley v Valeo case of 1976 which upheld the two-year spending limits after they were first introduced in 1971.
Lawyers for Mr McCutcheon, an electrical engineer, claim that the limits on donations violate the free-speech rights of a donor and restrict the ability of candidates and parties to compete against super PACs, the big spending campaign support groups, and political non-profit groups.
“In a rational universe, you wouldn’t want candidates and parties to become bit players in elections – you want their voices to be heard,” said Indiana lawyer Jim Bopp, the lead counsel in the McCutcheon case.
However, opponents are fearful of corruption. “If the Supreme Court reverses its past ruling in Buckley, the court would do extraordinary damage to the nation’s ability to prevent the corruption of federal officeholders and government decisions,” said Fred Wertheimer, the president of Democracy 21, a political campaign funding watchdog.