The smart money is saying that at least some Watergate-era campaign finance limits could be struck down by the Supreme Court in a case reminiscent of the 2011 Citizens United disaster.
Oral arguments were heard Tuesday in the new case, McCutcheon vs.
The law caps any individual's contribution during a two-year Congressional election cycle to $2,500 per candidate and $30,800 to each political party. Those aren't in question. What's before the court are aggregate limits, which allow an individual to make no more than $123,000 total in those contributions. Remove the aggregate limit, and any individual could spend $3.5 million, total.
during the session, "I don't think $3.5 million is a heck of a lot of money." That's not how Justice
saw it: "You give $3.5 million, you get a very, very special place at the table."
In the past, the court has upheld these aggregate limits as a bulwark against corruption, which has trumped the constraints on free speech they impose. The torrent of cash that has inundated the electoral system since Citizens United, which removed spending constraints on corporations, has shifted the conversation a bit. Justice
"It has been argued that these limits promote ... democratic participation," she said. "Instead of concentrating fundraising on the super-affluent, the candidate would then have to try to raise money more broadly.... Then the little people will count some, and you won't have the super-affluent as the speakers that will control the elections."
The consensus among court-watchers is that Chief Justice