Brennan Center to U.S. SC: Aggregate campaign contribution limits should be upheld

Jessica M. Karmasek Aug. 2, 2013, 7:00pm

WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline) -- The Brennan Center for Justice wants the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold a federal court's decision in what some have deemed the next big campaign finance case, saying ruling otherwise would ensure "the dominance of powerful factions."

The non-partisan public policy and law institute argues that the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia's decision in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission should be affirmed and the challenged biennial campaign contribution limits should be upheld as constitutional.

"One of the most important steps to beat back government by faction has been the adoption of campaign contribution limits, of which aggregate contribution limits are an essential component," attorneys for the Brennan Center wrote in an amicus brief filed with the nation's high court late last week.

"In the absence of aggregate contribution limits, donors of substantial means could give effectively unlimited sums directly to candidates and parties, marginalizing the role of the People as a whole and ensuring the dominance of powerful factions after elections conclude.

"That would invite the very consequence that our nation has long sought to avoid: undue influence of the few with a resulting loss by the People of their faith in our system of representative government."

Federal law imposes two types of limits on political contributions by individuals.

Base limits restrict the amount an individual may contribute to a particular candidate committee ($2,600 per election); national party committee ($32,400 per calendar year); state, district and local party committee (a combined limit of $10,000 per calendar year); and political action committee ($5,000 per calendar year).

Aggregate limits restrict the total contributions an individual may make in a biennial election cycle as follows: $48,600 to candidate committees and $74,600 to non-candidate committees, of which no more than $48,600 may go to non-national party committees (i.e., state, district and local party committees).

In McCutcheon, the Republican National Committee and the individual donor involved in the case, Alabaman Shaun McCutcheon, take issue with aggregate contribution limits.

The RNC and McCutcheon argue that the limits are unconstitutional because contributors are limited to supporting a certain number of candidates.

The nation's high court is set to hear the case during its next term in October.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at

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