Today the Supreme Court of the United States issued its decision in McCutcheon v. FEC. The decision, which was 5-4 and authored by Chief Justice Roberts, struck down the aggregate limits under the Federal Election Campaign Act. Specifically, the Court found that 2 U.S.C. section 441a(a)(3)(A), which limits individual contributions to federal candidates and party committees over the course of a two-year election cycle (i.e. the biennial limit) was unconstitutional because “aggregate limits do little, if anything, to address [the permissible objective of combatting corruption], while seriously restricting participation in the democratic process.” Justices Scalia, Kennedy and Alito joined in the majority opinion. Justice Breyer authored the dissent. Justice Thomas authored a concurrence.
Currently, eight states impose comparable aggregate contribution limits on a single contributor’s contributions to multiple recipients during a specified time period. All of these limits are now vulnerable to challenge under the Court’s decision, though with the Court’s suggestions for reform, there is much room for debate. As previously discussed on the firm’s Corporate Political Activity Law Blog, the Court’s decision may have an impact in New Jersey and certainly will in New York.
Comments by Partner Laurence D. Laufer were included in Crains New York's analysis of the opinion. "In New York, there’s also a law preventing such “earmarking” of campaign funds, according to Mr. Laufer. That means anyone who filed a lawsuit seeking to overturn New York’s $150,000 limit would have a strong case based on the Supreme Court opinion."