The Supreme Court of the United States recently indicated that it will hear arguments in early October in a case that challenges the aggregate biennial limit on the amount that an individual may contribute to federal candidates, parties and political committees (PACs). A decision on the case is expected by next Spring, just in time to impact the financing of the 2014 mid-term elections.
Federal law imposes two sets of limits on the amounts that individuals may contribute to federal candidates, parties and political committees. For the 2013-2014 cycle, an individual may contribute up to $2,600 per election to a federal candidate, up to $32,400 per calendar year to a national party committee, up to $10,000 per calendar year to the federal accounts of state, local and district party committees combined, and up to $5,000 per calendar year to federal PACs.
A second set of aggregate biennial contribution limits applies to individuals: For the 2013-2014 cycle, an individual may contribute up to $123,200 in the aggregate over the two years. Of this amount, no more than $48,600 may be contributed to federal candidates, and no more than $74,600 may be contributed to federal PACs and party committees. Of this $74,600, an individual may contribute up to $48,000 in aggregate to federal PACs and the federal accounts of state, local and district party committees.
In McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, plaintiffs Shaun McCutcheon, an Alabama resident, and the Republican National Committee (RNC) challenge the constitutionality of the aggregate biennial limits. A decision in favor of the plaintiffs would overturn laws limiting campaign contributions that have been upheld since the Supreme Court's landmark ruling in Buckley v. Valeo in 1976.
Much like Citizens United v. FEC, the outcome of the case will be closely watched, and sure to shape federal elections for years to come. In the interim, it is important for individuals who are active in federal elections to monitor their contributions closely in order to ensure compliance with current law.