Could The Supreme Court Strike Down Limits On Federal Campaign Contributions?


In the controversial Citizens United vs. FEC ruling, the Supreme Court struck down restrictions on corporate political spending, holding that political spending is a form of free speech.

Now another case will come before the court challenging federal limits on giving political contributions.

Note that the restriction in question isn’t the per-candidate limit, the but the limit on aggregate giving to all candidates:

In a move that could signal the end of a key restriction on political giving, the Supreme Court announced Tuesday it will consider a case challenging the limit on how much individuals can donate directly to federal candidates and political parties.

The court’s action comes three years after its Citizens United decision ended the ban on corporation donations to independent groups seeking to elect or defeat presidential and congressional candidates. That decision kept in place a 106-year-old ban on corporations giving directly to federal candidates. But it helped pave the way for a proliferation of deep-pocketed super PACs that can spend unlimited amounts of corporate and union money in federal contests, as long as they operate independently of candidates.

The case, brought by an Alabama businessman and the Republican National Committee, seeks to do away with the aggregate limit on how much an individual can donate directly to candidates and parties. Currently, an individual cannot donate more than $123,200 to all federal candidates, parties and traditional political action committees during a two-year-election cycle.

If political spending is political speech, and I believe that it is, then how could any limit on the amount of political spending be constitutional? Such limits would be tantamount to saying that citizens could only say so many nice (or negative) things about a given candidate. Or only write so many letters to the editor. Or only write so many blog posts.

How can you argue, if political money is speech, that the quantity of dollars spent can be limited?