Supreme Court to hear GOP challenge to campaign finance limits

by Dave Boyer-The Washington Times  |  published on February 20, 2013

In a new test of campaign donors’ free-speech rights, the Supreme Court announced Tuesday it will consider a case challenging the limit on how much individuals are allowed to donate to federal candidates and political parties.

The Court said it will hear a case brought by Alabama businessman Shaun McCutcheon and the Republican National Committee, who seek to do away with the $123,200 aggregate limit that an individual can donate directly in a two-year election cycle to all federal candidates, parties and political action committees. They argue that the limit violates a donor’s free-speech rights under the First Amendment, and hurts a candidate’s ability to compete in a new era of unrestricted campaign spending by independent groups.

Although the case involves the relatively narrow question of the two-year limit, some legal analysts said the Court’s ruling next year could have broader implications by re-examining the standard it set in the Buckley case in 1976. At the time, the Court said government could impose limits on the “speech” of campaign donations.

“If that rule goes away, that could arguably open the door to do away with contribution limits, as well as the corporate contribution ban and everything else,” said Stefan Passantino, a campaign-law expert at McKenna, Long & Aldridge in Washington. “There’s the potential here for the court to open up contribution limits wholesale.”

The Court’s move comes three years after its Citizens United decision ended the ban on corporate and union donations to independent, third-party groups who want to influence congressional or presidential elections. The case will be considered in the court’s next term, which begins in October.

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