On Tuesday, the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments in a campaign finance case that could be even bigger than the last one, the infamous Citizens United case of 2010. The new case, McCutcheon vs. FEC, challenges the aggregate spending rules that limit any one campaign contributor to $123,000 in total spending to political candidates and election committees during any two-year federal election cycle. The aggregate limit long has been a check on the flow of cold hard cash into the electoral system. As a three-judge panel of federal district court in Washington, D.C., observed last year, the per-candidate contribution limits in federal law — including $2,500 per election to any given candidate, $30,800 per year to each political party — would allow an individual to spread up to $3.5 million around. That’s a lot of bunce. The $123,000 ceiling effectively limits that donor to backing no more than 18 individual candidates in any cycle, the D.C. court noted.
Over the decades, the Supreme Court has upheld the aggregate limit as a necessary check on “corruption” of the electoral process. In a key 1976 decision, the court defined corruption broadly and ruled that it was a sufficiently important purpose to justify the marginal restraint on free speech imposed by the limit.
The D.C. judges also noted that the aggregate limit also works as a check on attempts to evade the individual contribution limits. Without it, they wrote, an individual might write, say, a single half-million-dollar check to a party campaign committee that would be required to divvy it up so no one candidate receives more than his or her legal share. But following the money is hard, so there would be no way to know whether the funds weren’t being illicitly combined.
“The candidate who knows the coordinated expenditure funding derives from that single large check at the joint fundraising event,” the judges wrote, “will know precisely where to lay the wreath of gratitude.”
Full Article: The next ‘Citizens United’ is coming your way – latimes.com.