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McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission

In McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, the U.S. Supreme Court will consider whether to strike down longstanding provisions of the Federal Election Campaign Act that impose an “aggregate limit” of approximately $125,000 on the amounts individuals can contribute during an election cycle to federal candidates, political parties, and other political committees. The elimination of that cap would allow candidates and party officials to solicit million-dollar plus contributions to be shared among the major parties’ various candidates and committees. Despite the Supreme Court’s repeated holdings that limits on such huge contributions are constitutional because they are a bulwark against corruption—the exchange of political favors for money—the Republican National Committee (RNC) and one of its large donors argued in the case that the limits should be wiped away because the resulting contributions will not be “huge” enough to cause concern.

On behalf of U.S. Representatives Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and David Price (D-NC), Public Citizen submitted an amicus curiae brief supporting the constitutionality of the existing limits and opposing the RNC’s effort to eliminate it. Public Citizen took the lead in drafting the brief, and worked as co-counsel with former U.S. Solicitor General Seth Waxman and his colleagues at the law firm WilmerHale, Fred Wertheimer of Democracy 21, and Don Simon of the law firm Sonosky, Chambers, Sachse, Endreson & Perry. The amicus brief argued that permitting the parties and their candidates to solicit and receive contributions of millions of dollars from individual donors would again foster the appearance that our officeholders and our government are for sale.

The Supreme Court heard argument in the case on October 8, 2013. On April 2, 2014, the Court struck down the aggregate limits, opening up new avenues for large-dollar contributors to buy influence with political parties and their candidates.