On Oct. 8, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) will argue to the Supreme Court that all campaign contribution limits should be eliminated and that candidates should be able to accept unlimited donations. Although McConnell is not a party in the case of McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, the Supreme Court has granted the Senate minority leader time during oral argument to present his views: that campaign contribution limits are an unconstitutional burden on free speech and that the court should give contribution limits a higher level of scrutiny than it has in the past. McConnell will be represented by lawyer Bobby Burchfield. McCutcheon v. FEC challenges the aggregate limit on donations to federal candidates, political parties and political action committees, which bars an individual donor from giving more than $123,200 in total during the 2014 election cycle. McConnell wants to go much further by forcing courts to treat all campaign contribution limits as they treat campaign expenditure limits, which were found to be an unconstitutional burden on First Amendment rights in the 1976 Buckley v. Valeo decision.
The senator, a prominent opponent of campaign finance reforms, was the lead plaintiff 10 years ago in McConnell v. FEC, a Supreme Court challenge to the McCain-Feingold Act. Burchfield argued in that case as well.
The individual contribution limits that McConnell also wants to eliminate currently restrict a donor to giving $2,600 to a candidate for each of the primary and general elections. Absent these limits, people running for federal office could accept checks of the same size routinely donated to super PACs.
And some donors are willing to write very generous checks. The largest single check written to a super PAC in the 2012 election was $5 million. The largest total amount from one donor to one super PAC in that election came from Texas industrialist Harold Simmons, who gave $20.5 million to American Crossroads.