As if it weren’t already clear enough that the U.S. Supreme Court’s next money in politics decision is about money in Republican politics, the plaintiffs are spelling it out for you. When the challenge to campaign contribution limits goes before the justices on Tuesday, they won’t just hear from the Republican National Committee’s lawyers. The court has also allotted oral argument time to Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who will make an even broader argument than that of the plaintiff in the case, arguing that all limits on campaign contributions are unconstitutional.
McConnell was the named plaintiff in a lawsuit challenging some campaign spending limits ten years ago, and lost that bid before the Supreme Court. Now, in the wake of the Roberts Court’s watershed ruling in Citizens United, he’ll try again to argue that the courts should give less scrutiny to contribution limits, as it has already agreed to do with regard to campaign expenditures.
The plaintiff in the case, wealthy Republican Shawn McCutcheon, is challenging a federal law that limits individuals’ contributions to candidates and parties. The current caps are $2,600 to a single candidate by a single individual, and an overall limit of $123,200 in contributions every two years to candidates, political party committees and similar organizations. Last year, only a few hundred people in the country contributed enough money to hit those caps. And a unanimous panel of lower court judges recognized that removing those caps would disproportionately inflate their power.
That opinion led by a very conservative judge held that eliminating these caps would allow even more corruption into our elections system, by enabling several donations from one individual to make their way back to one candidate, who would later owe an enormous debt of gratitude to that one person.