Decision in McCutcheon v FEC could add $1 billion from big donors through 2020
Montpelier – Today the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in McCutcheon v. FEC to strike down overall, or aggregate, contribution limits to candidates and political committees. U.S. PIRG research found that this ruling could bring $1 billion in additional campaign contributions from fewer than 2,800 elite donors through the 2020 election cycle.
“In Citizens United the Supreme Court handed a giant megaphone to the wealthiest interests, and now with their ruling in McCutcheon, they’ve turned up the volume even higher,” said Paul Burns, VPIRG’s Executive Director. “If you liked Citizens United, you’re going to love McCutcheon.”
In the case, Alabama donor Shaun McCutcheon asked the Court to strike down the overall limit on what an individual can give to federal candidates, parties, and PACs in a two-year election cycle. That limit stood at $123,200 – over twice the average household income in the U.S. In 2012, only 1,219 donors came within 10% of hitting the aggregate limit. Research from U.S. PIRG and Demos projects that now that the aggregate limit has been struck down, this same set of 1,219 donors will more than triple their gifts to $459.3 million.
The Supreme Court has never before struck down a federal contribution limit, maintaining that these limits are constitutional because they prevent corruption and the appearance of corruption.
“If we’re going to prevent our elections from becoming simply a playground for the rich, we have to get creative at the state level,” said Burns. “Earlier this year, as legislators were passing a very weak campaign finance law, many spoke in favor of taking a stronger approach next year. VPIRG will be urging them to do just that, focusing on Super PAC and donor disclosure, corporate contributions, public financing and transparency around lobbying.”
A U.S. PIRG and Demos report, McCutcheon Money, projected the impact of today’s Supreme Court decision – more than $1 billion in additional campaign contributions by through 2020 – is available here.