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Shaun McCutcheon (C) plaintiff in a case of McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, leaves the Supreme Court on October 8, 2013 in Washington, DC. The court heard oral arguments in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Committee, a first amendment case that will determine how much money an individual can contribute directly to political campaigns.
In a 5-4 split ruling today, the Supreme Court said political donors still have to limit contributions to individual campaigns, but said there is no cap to how much money a donor can spread across candidates and political committees. In 2013 and 2014, the overall spending limit was $123,200.
Now, wealthy contributors can pour millions of dollars into a plethora of candidates and causes. Writing for the court's conservative majority, Chief Justice John Roberts stated the overall limits "intrude without justification on a citizen's ability to exercise 'the most fundamental First Amendment activities.'"
Speaking from the bench for the dissenting opinion, Justice Stephen Breyer said the ruling "understates the importance of protecting the political integrity of our governmental institution." Breyer said today's McCutcheon decision will be more influential than the controversial Citizens United case of 2010 that lifted limits on spending by corporations and unions.
Do you agree with Justice Roberts constitutional analysis or Justice Breyer’s take? How does the fact that donations will be subject to disclosure alter things, if at all? Who has the most to gain and the most to lose from today’s decision? Which campaign finance laws will be challenged next?
With files from the Associated Press.
Lisa McElroy, Associate Professor of Law, Earle Mack School of Law, Drexel University; Visiting Associate Professor , University of Denver’s Sturm College of Law
Erin E. Murphy, partner at the Washington DC law firm Bancroft PLLC, and argued before the Supreme Court on behalf of appellants Shaun McCutcheon and the Republican National Committee.
Lawrence Norden, deputy director of the Brennan Center’s democracy program - a nonpartisan institute focused on election law and democracy at NYU School of Law