Today the Supreme Court, in McCutcheon v. FEC, issued a ruling striking down the aggregate limits on individual campaign contributions under the Federal Election Campaign Act. By a 5-4 decision, the court found the restrictions to be a violation of First Amendment rights. Prior to today’s decision, individuals could contribute up to US$48,600.00 to all political candidates and US$74,600.00 to all political action committees and parties over a two-year election cycle period. Also, individuals were limited to a total of US$123,200.00 per election cycle to all candidates, political action committees, and party committees. The Supreme Court’s decision today strikes these limitations. There is no limit on the number of political candidates, political action committees, and parties to whom an individual may contribute.
It is important to note, however, that the Supreme Court did not strike down the base limitations on individual contributions. Under current law, an individual is permitted to contribute up to US$2,600.00 to a political candidate per election. An individual is also permitted to contribute up to US$5,000.00 per calendar year to any political action committee. There are also limitations on the amounts an individual can contribute to a national party committee and to state, district, and local party committees. All of these limitations remain in place. The Supreme Court struck down only the aggregate contribution limitations while leaving in place all of the base limitations. The practical effect of this decision, thus, is a greater freedom for wealthy political donors to “max-out” contributions to more candidates as well as political committees.