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  • The Committee for Justice

CFJ Fights for Free Speech at High Court, Files Brief in McCutcheon v. FEC

Today the Supreme Court hears oral argument in the biggest campaign finance case since Citizens United, and the Committee for Justice has weighed in on the side of free speech. CFJ’s amicus brief in today’s case, McCutcheon v. FEC, supports the Republican National Committee and campaign donor Shaun McCutcheon in their First Amendment challenge to the aggregate contribution limits imposed by McCain-Feingold.

Most observers believe the Court will strike down the aggregate limits at issue, which restrict the total amount of political contributions a donor can make over a two-year election cycle. For example, a donor must comply not only with McCain-Feingold’s base limits – such as a $2600 per-candidate limit in each election – but also an aggregate or combined limit of $48,600 on contributions to all federal candidates over the election cycle. As a result, the contributor is limited to supporting no more than nine candidates if he gives each one $2600 for both the primary and general election.

CFJ president Curt Levey explained that “it is hard enough to square McCain-Feingold’s limits on per-candidate contributions with the First Amendment, but it is even harder to justify the aggregate limits, which serve no significant interest – constitutionally valid or otherwise – when added on top of the individual limits.” Levey emphasized that “striking down the aggregate limits would be both important in its own right and a critical first step towards ending the Court’s second-class treatment of political contributions under the First Amendment.”

CFJ’s brief also focuses on the perverse effect of the aggregate limits, which serve to direct the flow of money away from candidates and political parties and towards entities, such as Super PACs and 501(c)(4) organizations – like Citizens United – that engage in independent expenditures. In other words, said Levey, “the aggregate limits diminish the voice of people and organizations with an interest in moderation, compromise and consensus and amplify the message of those with narrower interests and often less moderate views. “

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