James Madison Center

U.S. Supreme Court to Review Biennial Individual Aggregate Limits on Contributions to Candidates and Political Parties

Today the U.S. Supreme Court granted full review of McCutcheon v. FEC. The case, brought by Shaun McCutcheon and the Republican National Committee, challenges the biennial individual aggregate limits on contributions to candidates and national political party committees (such as RNC).

Under these biennial expenditure limits, even though a contributor can give up to $2,600 per election to a candidate, a contributor may only give $48,600 to all federal candidates in a two year election cycle. And the biennial limits also restrict contributions to national party committees to $74,600 (with a limit of $32,400 to each per year).

When the Supreme Court in 1976 upheld an overall biennial individual aggregate limit of $25,000 on all contributions to candidates, pacs and political parties, there were no specific contribution limits on political parties and PACs. Thus, without the individual aggregate limit, a person could make unlimited contributions to PACs and political parties. However, this changed later when Congress adopted specific contribution limits to PACs and state and national political parties. Thus, such unlimited contributions to PACs and political parties are no longer possible, but individuals are still limited in what they can spend in aggregate on all candidates, PACs, and political parties.

“This biennial spending limit no longer serves any purpose other than to limit how much money candidates, PACs, and political parties may receive overall, while Super PACs and advocacy groups may raise unlimited sums for their political purposes,” said James Bopp, Jr., attorney for the Plaintiffs. Bopp continued: “This puts candidates and political parties at a disadvantage and distorts the whole campaign finance system. It drives money away from candidates and political parties that are the most accountable and transparent players in our elections.” 

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