On Tuesday the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, potentially the most significant federal campaign finance case since Citizens United in 2010. But while the court in Citizens United struck down — correctly, in my opinion — limits on independent campaign spending by individuals or organizations, the McCutcheon case is an attack on limits that should not be struck down: those on contributions made directly or indirectly to political candidates. The McCutcheon case was brought by the Republican National Committee and a contributor, Shaun McCutcheon. If they succeed, individuals will be able, in effect, to direct unlimited amounts of cash to the election campaigns of federal candidates — inviting corruption or the appearance of corruption, which the Supreme Court has consistently held justifies contribution limits. (I have filed an amicus brief in this case on behalf of Americans for Campaign Reform.)
Campaign-finance law currently limits an individual’s contribution to a federal candidate to a modest sum — around $2,500 — with a somewhat larger limit for donations to committees that contribute to the candidate. In addition, the law places an aggregate limit — around $120,000 — on an individual’s contributions, direct or indirect, to all federal candidates every two-year election cycle.
Mr. McCutcheon and the R.N.C. say they object to the aggregate limit on contributions, not to the per candidate limit.
Ever since the 1976 Supreme Court case Buckley v. Valeo, in which the court upheld limits on individual federal campaign contributions, every Supreme Court decision on this issue has been based on the distinction between money given to candidates — contributions — and money that individuals or organizations use for their own independent campaign-related expenditures.
Full Article: It’s Not Citizens United – NYTimes.com.