Today’s 5-4 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in McCutcheon v. FEC has implications for campaign finance law in Maryland as well as the federal level.
McCutcheon voided aggregate limits on contributions. Put another way, the Court voided the bar on any individual donating more than $48,600 to all federal candidates and $74,600 to political parties. At least for now, the Court upheld the limit on donating $2600 to any one candidate but Chief Justice Roberts would clearly like to get rid of it.
The Court’s decision is grounded in precedents that go back to Buckley v. Valeo that view campaign spending as the equivalent of free speech. The five person majority on the Court believes that the aggregate limits violate the First Amendment by limiting speech.
Presumably, Maryland’s limit of any individual or other entity donating more than a total of more than $10,000 to candidates, PACs, or political parties is now also unconstitutional. The $4000 limit on donations to any one candidate, PAC, or political party should remain in place.
The change will allow wealthy individuals or PACs to invest in a much broader array of races. Moreover, wealthy donors have all the more reason to screen their calls. They should now expect to get hit up more aggressively by candidates, as they can no longer say that they’ve hit the limit and cannot donate legally to them.