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After McCutcheon Argument, Supreme Court Could Strike Down Contribution Limits

October 8, 2013
SUPREME COURT PLAZA, Washington, DC – Following oral argument in the campaign finance case of McCutcheon v. FEC in the U.S. Supreme Court, Constitutional Accountability Center attorneys Doug Kendall, Elizabeth Wydra, and David Gans – who were in the Court for this morning’s hearing – issued the following reaction:
 
"As Solicitor General Don Verrilli said as he opened his argument," said CAC President Doug Kendall, "this case is about corruption, arguing that the aggregate limits at issue 'provide a bulwark against the reality and appearance of corruption.' A majority of the Court seemed to agree, recognizing that striking down the aggregate limits could lead to corruption in our political process."
 
CAC Civil Rights Director David Gans continued, "The conservative majority, however, indicated that they might strike down limits on contributions that have been upheld since the Watergate era. Such a ruling would be a mistaken extension of Citizens United, which itself recognized the power of the government to regulate campaign contributions."
 
CAC Chief Counsel Elizabeth Wydra said, "Despite Justice Scalia's remarkable statement that $3.6 million -- the size of the check that a single big donor could write to a party if the aggregate limit is struck down -- is not a lot of money, Justice Ginsburg noted that most people cannot contribute over the existing aggregate limit. As Solicitor General Verrilli pointed out, allowing individuals to contribute that sum would result in 'government run by and for the 500' or so individuals able and willing to contribute that sum."
 
"The Court struggled with McCutcheon," Doug Kendall added, "because its ruling in Citizens United is in tension with prior rulings upholding contribution limits. But as Justice Kagan explained, the way to solve that tension is to limit Citizens United, not overturn decades old rulings that protect our politcal process."
 
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Resources:
 
“Friend of the court” brief of Harvard Law Professor Lawrence Lessig, filed by Constitutional Accountability Center, in McCutcheon v. FEC: http://theusconstitution.org/sites/default/files/briefs/CAC-McCutcheon-v-FEC-Amicus-Brief.pdf 
 
“Senator McConnell v. the Founders,” Elizabeth Wydra, New York Times, October 6, 2013: http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2013/10/06/why-limit-political-donations/senator-mitch-mcconnell-versus-the-founders-on-campaign-finance 
 
“The Basic Difference Between Campaign Contributions and Expenditures: A Reply to Bob Bauer,” David Gans, July 31, 2013: http://theusconstitution.org/text-history/2174/basic-difference-between-campaign-contributions-and-expenditures-reply-bob-bauer 
 
“SCOTUS Term Shapes Up To Be A Battle Over Constitutional Originalism,” Doug Kendall and Tom Donnelly, Talking Points Memo, October 7, 2013: http://talkingpointsmemo.com/cafe/scotus-term-shapes-up-to-be-a-battle-over-constitutional-originalism 
 
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Constitutional Accountability Center (www.theusconstitution.org) is a think tank, public interest law firm, and action center dedicated to fulfilling the progressive promise of the Constitution's text and history.
 
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