Shaun McCutcheon Loses Campaign Donor Limits Case
A federal three-judge panel dismissed the Republican National Committee's claim that aggregate political contributions are "unconstitutionally low and unconstitutionally overbroad."
Under the Federal Elections Campaign Act, donors can give no more than an aggregate of $46,200 to candidates and their authorized committees and no more than $70,800 to anyone else, limiting the total amount of contributions over a two-year period.
The RNC and Republican Shaun McCutcheon sued the FEC to abolish aggregate limits, claiming that they not only limit political contributions, but also free speech.
The judges disagreed, stating that the issue of contribution limits is legislative, not judicial. They also stated that the limits are justified by the government's motive to stop corruption.
"Eliminating the aggregate limits means an individual might, for example, give half-a-million dollars in a single check to a joint fundraising committee comprising a party's presidential candidate, the party's national party committee, and most of the party's state party committees," wrote U.S. Circuit Judge Janice Brown, who was joined by U.S. District Judge Robert Wilkins and U.S. District Judge James Boasberg on the panel. "After the fundraiser, the committees are required to divvy the contributions to ensure that no committee receives more than its permitted share, but because party committees may transfer unlimited amounts of money to other party committees of the same party, the half-a-million-dollar contribution might nevertheless find its way to a single committee's coffers. That committee, in turn, might use the money for coordinated expenditures, which have no 'significant functional difference' from the party's direct candidate contributions. The candidate who knows the coordinated expenditure funding derives from that single large check at the joint fundraising event will know precisely where to lay the wreath of gratitude."
McCutcheon, an Alabama resident, says he's contributed $33,088 to 16 different candidates in the 2011-2012 election cycle in amounts ranging from $1,776 to $2,500. He's given $1,776 to each the RNC, the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the National Republican Congressional Committee. He's also given $2,000 to the Senate Conservatives Fund and $20,000 to the Alabama Republic Party.
"McCutcheon, however, wants to contribute more," states Judge Brown. "He wants to contribute $1,776 to twelve other candidates and enough money to the RNC, NRSC, and NRCC to bring his total contributions up to $25,000 each. Doing either of these, however, would violate the aggregate limits: the additional candidate contributions would amount to aggregate candidate contributions of $54,400, and the additional party committee contributions would amount to aggregate contributions of $75,000 to national party committees. McCutcheon assures us he intends to repeat these donation patterns during future election cycles."
The panel dismissed McCutcheon's argument that the limits infringe on his free speech rights, allowing the government to "justify the aggregate limits as a means of preventing corruption or the appearance of corruption."The judges granted the FEC's motion to dismiss the complaint.