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This Is the Case to Follow if You Care About Campaign Corruption

This Is the Case to Follow if You Care About Campaign Corruption

By Jessica Jones , Grassroots Advocacy Manager at the League of Women Voters.

The U.S. Supreme Court is set to begin hearing cases in its fall term next month. On the second day of arguments, a case that has been labeled the “next Citizens United“ will be heard by the Justices. The case, McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission (FEC), challenges aggregate spending limits that are imposed on individual donors in order to prevent corruption and the appearance of corruption. To understand the full effect that this case could have on campaign finance, it’s important to understand what limits are currently placed on individual donor contributions.

In the 1970s, Congress passed and amended the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA). The legislation was introduced following the corruption during the 1972 election season. FECA established contribution limits for individuals and disclosure requirements for federal candidates, political parties and political action committees as well as contributors. It also established the FEC as the governing body for enforcement of these limits. The League lobbied intensively for FECA and worked to defend the law in the courts. Throughout this time and since, the League has advocated that limits to the size and type of contributions from all sources are an essential means to combat undue influence and corruption in the election and governing processes.

Individuals can donate $2,600 per election to a federal candidate, $32,400 to a national party committee and up to $5,000 to a non-party political action committee (PAC). However, in addition, there is an aggregate contribution limit of $123,200 on the total amount that an individual can donate to candidates and party or non-party political committees over a two year period. Contribution limits were established to block corruption from large gifts of money to particular candidates and to avoid creating a funnel system through which large amounts of money from a single person could be distributed from PACs or party committees to individual candidates.

Removing the aggregate limits on contributions would allow an unlimited amount of money to be contributed by one person to federal candidates. It would also allow an office holder or candidate to solicit an unlimited contribution for distribution to a number of candidates. Thus, the contributor would gain broad influence and the recipient would be beholden due to the unlimited gift. More money, more influence. Thus, the McCutcheon v. FEC case will have a large impact even though it deals with a technical and arcane matter of campaign finance law.

The League has joined an amicus brief in this case. The brief argues two basic points. First, overturning the aggregate limit would ignore the real world effects that abolishing the limits would have. Overturning the aggregate limit would essentially allow individuals to donate millions of dollars to candidates and political parties and corrupt our political system. Second, abolishing aggregate limits would allow the party and PAC systems to become a funnel for candidates across the country and circumvent the other existing limits.

The League will continue to be active at all levels of government to protect our political system from big-money corruption and to ensure that the voices of voters across the country can be heard. We will continue to update our website with information on this case. Check out our work on Money in Politics for the most up-to-date information regarding this case and other actions being taken on campaign finance issues.

This post was originally published on the LWV blog.

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Photo Credit: Thinkstock

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11:02PM PST on Nov 12, 2013

thanks for sharing..

1:10PM PDT on Oct 2, 2013

Thank you League of Women Voters, for Sharing this!

2:18PM PDT on Sep 20, 2013

Agree that our campaign contributions system, if there really is one, is broke. Right now Billionaires are buying votes - they have been for years, we just haven't noticed them sneaking up behind us.

10:09PM PDT on Sep 19, 2013

Thanks for the they lift the limits.

10:23AM PDT on Sep 18, 2013


5:20AM PDT on Sep 18, 2013

Thanks for sharing!

10:18PM PDT on Sep 17, 2013


6:43AM PDT on Sep 17, 2013


10:46PM PDT on Sep 16, 2013

Thank you for sharing this

5:33PM PDT on Sep 16, 2013

So now Bill Billionaire won't have to make huge charitable contributions which then get used for advocacy on issues not universally recognized as being matters of politics rather than just matters of society anymore. He won't even have to go ahead and do it himself, and then write the whole think off as a "contribution in kind" to a charity related to the issue on which he campaigns for his party. There won't even be any of that silly "Here is $150,000. If you want it again in two years, donate $123,000 how I say you should" with dozens of "donors". That's pretty convenient.

More seriously, getting rid of the limit means stopping people from using these loopholes which have the side-effect of hiding where the money for campaigns really originates. I don't think that the U.S. government has what it takes to close the loopholes, so it might as well get rid of the law.

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