The Supreme Court heard arguments in a challenge of campaign finance rules that cap individual donations to candidates and PACs to $123,200. If the limits ratified by this same Court back in 1976 are swept aside, the new limit will be a whole lot higher.
The limits were part of the wave of electoral reforms that came in the wake of the Watergate scandal, and was upheld by the Supreme Court in the 1976 Buckley v. Veleo decision.
Citizens are limited to $48,600 in direct donations to political candidates and another $74,600 to non-candidate political organizations, including political parties. The term for the donations is over two years.
Although the case is not challenging the $2,600 donation cap to any one candidate, it is challenging the number of candidates that can receive such a donation, which ultimately supports a donation limit of $3,600,000 every two years.
The cap is being attacked by Shaun McCutcheon, who would like to spread his financial support to Republicans more generously and who believes the cap is an unconstitutional restriction of his free speech. It is being strongly supported by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).
Backers of the current limits say this is merely a relitigation of Buckley, and that the reasons it was upheld in the first place still pertain today.
RBR-TVBR observation: This sure looks like a sequel to Citizens United. Backers of the limits can stand on precedent all they want, but in Citizens, the conservative wing of the Court reached back and overturned precedent dating to the late 1800s. We suspect the same thing will happen here.
Indeed, according to the Associated Press, three justices — Anthony Kennedy, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas – have already indicated an interest in easing the restriction on donations. It is not a stretch to predict that Samuel Alito and Chief Justice John Roberts will join them.