According to a report from the Huffington Post, the Supreme Court may be poised to further gut campaign finance regulations, this time taking on the overall limit on how much a person can contribute to federal candidates in an election cycle.
The case, McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, calls into question whether the caps on aggregate federal campaign donations — currently $123,200 per donor for the 2014 election cycle — are a violation of the Constitution's guarantee of free speech. Opponents of the current law argue that the cap represents an undue burden, while supporters say the cap protects against corruption.
Chief Justice John Roberts, who previously joined a Court majority that upheld contribution limits as constitutional, is seen as the case's "swing" vote. But his questions on Tuesday indicated a skepticism toward the existing law's constitutionality. "It seems to me to be a very direct restriction [on donations]," Roberts said.
Solicitor General Donald Verrilli Jr., representing the FEC, based his argument to uphold the limits on the possibility that a candidate could solicit a check up to $3.5 million for a joint fundraising committee. This solicitation, Verrilli argued, would violate the ban on the solicitation of extremely large contributions that the court upheld in the 2003 McConnell v. FEC case.
Roberts responded, "I appreciate the argument about the $3.5 million check," but he wondered if there was a way to balance the corruption concern around this solicitation with what Roberts saw as the First Amendment burdens of the aggregate limits.
"I suppose you could calculate and set an aggregate limit that is higher," Verrilli answered.