New Yorker: Another Citizens United, but Worse, Goes to the Supreme Court

by - July 30, 2013

That’s where the new case comes in. Current federal law allows individual donors to give up to two thousand six hundred dollars to any one candidate during a single election. In addition, they can give only an aggregate hundred and twenty-three thousand dollars to candidates, political action committees, and parties over a two-year period. Shaun McCutcheon, an Alabama Republican, wants to give more money to the candidates he supports, so he has sued to invalidate the rules limiting the over-all amounts he can give. (Indeed, the patriotically minded McCutcheon wanted to give “$1,776” to enough candidates to exceed the current limits on direct contributions.) The Supreme Court will hear his case in the fall, and he has a good chance of winning. To see why McCutcheon may win, one must examine the strange reasoning that governs the Supreme Court’s decisions on campaign finance. In his brief to the Justices, McCutcheon makes an argument that is breathtaking for its candor. He says that when Congress first upheld limits on contributions, in the 1976 case of Buckley v. Valeo, the limits on aggregate giving served a useful purpose. Without the ceiling, the Court explained, a person could legally “contribute massive amounts of money to a particular candidate through the use of unearmarked contributions to political committees likely to contribute to that candidate, or [make] huge contributions to the candidate’s political party.”

The New Yorker

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