On Tuesday, the Supreme Court agreed to hear McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, 12-536. The gist of this case deals with the constitutionality of the two-year ceilings that federal law sets on what an individual can give during a campaign for the presidency or Congress, in donations to candidates, to political parties, or to other political committees.
The Supreme Court did not explicitly promise whether it would reconsider its decision in Buckley v. Valeo (1976). Since Buckley, the government had more leeway to control contributions to candidates or political organizations than over spending by candidates or by independent political activists.
In 2010, the Supreme Court decided a hotly controversial decision in Citizens United v. FEC. In Citizens United, the Supreme Court declared unconstitutional any limit on spending during federal campaigns by corporations or labor unions, so long as they spent the money independently of a candidate or candidate organization.
In McCutcheon, McCutcheon wants to be able to give more contributions than the two-year overall limits. McCutcheon’s contributions, if he could go over the limit, would have exceeded the two-year ceiling by $26,200.
Under federal law, the ceiling for the 2011-2012 campaign season was $2,500 per election to any candidate or a candidate’s campaign organization, no more than $30,800 per year to a national political party, no more than $10,000 per year to a state political party, and no more than $5,000 to any other political committee.
The two year ceiling for that same period, which is the issue in this case, is set at $177,000 overall. That is broken down into $46,200 to a candidate for federal office and $70,800 to non-candidate entities. The second amount was restricted in that no more than $46,200 could be given to a state party or a non-candidate committee.