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McCutheon v FCC 2014


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  2. The complainant, Shaun McCutcheon, sent money to several political organizations and politicians around the nation. The amount given to each candidate was equal to or less than what was allowed by federal law for contributions to single candidates. A federal statute that set a limit on the total amount of contributions that may be made to all candidates prevented McCutcheon from giving the same sums to more candidates. McCutcheon sued the Federal Election Commission (FEC) (defendant), arguing that the statute’s aggregate-limit restriction was unconstitutional.

  3. Case related to establishing limits in campaign contributions, “The base limit placed restrictions on how much money a contributor—defined broadly as individuals, partnerships, and other organizations” (oyez). However, an individal who wanted to donate more money that the permissible under the base limit sued the federal election commission because he said the limitation violated the 1st amendment. Question: the campaign contribution limit violate the 1st amendment?

  4. Facts of the case: Shaun McCutcheon (plaintiff) made a number of donations to political candidates and committees across the country. The amount donated to each candidate was at or below the federal limits on contributions to individual candidates. McCutcheon wanted to donate the same amounts to additional candidates but was unable to do so under a federal law establishing an aggregate-contribution limit across all candidates. McCutcheon brought suit against the Federal Election Commission (FEC) (defendant), challenging the constitutionality of the aggregate-limit statute. The FEC argued that the aggregate-contribution limit prevented circumvention of the individual-candidate limit. Specifically, the FEC argued that a donor’s unspecific contributions to committees will end up inuring to the benefit of an individual politician to which the donor had already given the maximum amount.

  5. In a 5-4 decision the Court held that the aggregate limit did little to address the concerns that the BCRA was meant to address and at the same time limited participation in the democratic process. Because the aggregate limit fails to meet the stated objective of preventing corruption, it does not survive the “rigorous” standard of review laid out by previous precedent dealing with campaign contributions from a First Amendment perspective and is therefore unconstitutional. The aggregate limit also prevents a donor from contributing beyond a specific amount to more than a certain number of candidates, which may force him to choose which interests he can seek to advance in a given election. The plurality held that the collective interest in combating corruption can only be pursued as long as it does not unnecessarily curtail an individual’s freedom of speech, and in this case the aggregate limit is not sufficiently closely tailored to accomplish this goal.

  6. The Court rules that aggregate limits were unconstitutional as it violates the First Amendment and does not further the government’s only legitimate interest in restricting campaign contributions, which was to prevent quid pro quo corruption or the appearance of it. The aggregate limit is the contribution an individual can make in a two-year election cycle. The Court’s decision ended the aggregate limit, but the BCRA’s limit on individual contributions to federal candidate campaigns, PACs, or party committees still stands. This case shows the Court’s commitment to their decision in Citizens United.

  7. In this case, the Court ruled to remove aggregate limits for individual donors giving to candidates, political parties and PACs. As a result, there is no longer an overall cap on how much one person can give to these committees combined in an election cycle, which was previously $123,200. Although a donor can now make political contributions to every single candidate for Congress, every “leadership PAC” maintained by a member of Congress, and every national and state political party committee, this does not mean that billionaires can donate as much as they want to a political candidate. The maximum amount one donor can give each candidate is still $2,600 per election, or $5,200 counting the primary and general election. The maximum contribution to a national party committee is still $32,400, and the maximum PAC contribution is still $5,000. But in the absence of an overall cap on spending, the donor could technically spend millions of dollars before running out of federal candidates and committees to support. Overall, McCutcheon means more money for the national party committees which is extremely dangerous in my opinion.

  8. For all of my classmates in 354 who will be covering more of the free speech cases, I really recommend the FEC website for summary resources on all of these cases as the FEC themselves provides accurate and effective summaries of the cases they’ve been involved in. Here is the link for this case: https://www.fec.gov/legal-resources/court-cases/mccutcheon-et-al-v-fec/

    In a 5-4 decision the USSC ruled that the FEC restriction on how much money you can donate over a two year span of time to a federal political campaign or cause is indeed violative of the First Amendment right to speech. Roberts wrote in the opinion: “The aggregate limits on contributions do not further the only governmental interest this Court accepted as legitimate in Buckley. They instead intrude without justification on a citizen’s ability to exercise ‘the most fundamental First Amendment activities.'” The Court ruled that there is a difference in the donations they looked at in Buckley and distinguished them from the McCutheon ruling because of the continued compelling interest to remove quid-pro-quo donations from political campaigns.

  9. Omar LeonDec 13, 2019
    It seems as this case was a good example of how the court can keep the original function of the government, to serve the people and work for them and not for large corporations that only seek self benefits.
    Yj Hwang
    Yj HwangDec 12, 2019
    Just more ways to get money to candidates to me
    Monalisa Mensah
    Monalisa MensahDec 4, 2019
    In 2002, Congress passed the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA), which established two sets of limits to campaign contributions. First the base limit, which placed restrictions on how much money a contributor— individuals, partnerships, and other organizations may give to specified categories of recipients. The second is aggregate limit -and this restricted how much money an individual may donate in a two-year election cycle.
    The court ruled that the two-year aggregate campaign contribution limit was unconstitutional.
    Henry Jiang
    Henry JiangDec 3, 2019
    This was a landmark decision in which the Court ruled that the Section 441 of the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA), which forced a constrain on commitments a person can make over a two-year period to national party and government candidate committees, was unconstitutional.

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