• U.S. Supreme Court Releases Opinion in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission
  • April 10, 2014 | Authors: Kirk L. Jowers; Trevor Potter; Matthew T. Sanderson
  • Law Firm: Caplin & Drysdale, Chartered - Washington Office
  • The U.S. Supreme Court released its long-anticipated opinion in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission this morning. Through a 5-4 decision, McCutcheon strikes down aggregate caps in federal campaign finance law that have limited an individual's total contributions to all federal candidates, political parties and PACs combined, and which also acted to limit how much federal candidates and officeholders can solicit from individual donors. Federal law has capped aggregate political contributions since 1974.

    However, the decision explicitly leaves in place the limits on how much an individual may give to any one particular federal candidate ($2,600/election), national party committee ($32,400/year), state political party's federal account ($10,000/year), or traditional federal PAC ($5,000/year). After McCutcheon, then, a single individual may contribute to an unlimited number of federal candidates, but may still give only up to $2,600 per election to any specific candidate. (Please see the diagram below for additional information.)

    McCutcheon provides major political donors with additional flexibility in distributing their contributions across a wider group of candidates, parties, and PACs. Candidates and party committees also now have the ability to solicit much larger amounts from their supporters through creating new "joint fundraising committees," which are vehicles that collect and distribute contributions on behalf of multiple participating candidate or party committees. We expect that party committees will react to today's Supreme Court decision by moving to create more of these joint committees, which in the past have been primarily used in presidential election campaigns.

    In addition, McCutcheon likely impacts various states' aggregate caps that restrict the total amount that can be given to state- and local-level candidates, parties, and committees. Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island, Wisconsin, and Wyoming are among the states that currently impose aggregate caps. Please note that, as has been the case with limits on funding independent expenditures after Citizens United, particular states may seek to continue enforcing their aggregate limits despite McCutcheon's outcome.