The Supreme Court struck down federal limits on the overall campaign contributions individual donors can give to candidates, political parties, and political action committees Wednesday.
McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission was decided 5-4. The majority held that Americans have the First Amendment right to donate the legal maximum to congressional candidates and presidential nominees, as well as to political parties and PACs, without needing to worry about violating the cap on total contribution limits.
Under the restrictions, individuals could give no more than $123,000 in total and $48,600 to candidates for the 2013-14 election cycle.
However, the ruling will not change the limits on individual contributions to candidates for president or Congress, currently set at $2,600 per election.
Chief Justice John Roberts explained in the decision that the previous law which restricted the number of campaigns or political groups an individual could contribute to, infringed on Americans’ ability to practice free speech.
“Contributing money to a candidate is an exercise of an individual’s right to participate in the electoral process through both political expression and political association,” Roberts wrote.
“A restriction on how many candidates and committees an individual may support is hardly a ‘modest Restraint’ on those rights. The Government may no more restrict how many candidates or causes a donor may support than it may tell a newspaper how many candidates it may endorse,” the majority decision explained.
The plaintiff in the case, Alabama businessman Shaun McCucheon, told The Daily Caller News Foundation that Wednesday’s decision was a big step in the right direction.
“I think it will have a very positive impact because we are moving back in the direction of freedom and free speech,” he said shortly after the Court’s ruling.
He told TheDCNF that free speech “is a fundamental constitutional right” and that he believes Wednesday’s decision will enhance prosperity in America by allowing more good ideas to compete in the market place.
Republican leaders reacted similarly.
“Today’s Court decision in McCutcheon v FEC is an important first step toward restoring the voice of candidates and party committees and a vindication for all those who support robust, transparent political discourse…When free speech is allowed to flourish, our democracy is stronger,” Reince Priebus, the Republican National Committee Chairman, said in a statement.
Democrats, on the other hand, foresee the reforms in campaign finance law leading to further corruption in the election process.
“This in itself is a small step, but another step on the road to ruination,” argued New York Democratic Sen. Charles E. Schumer, warning the decision “could lead to interpretations of the law that would result in the end of any fairness in the political system as we know it.”
After years of fighting the FEC in the courts, McCucheon says he is ready to take a break.
“The chances of getting involved in something like this again are very small. Right now I just want to be happy with this accomplishment. I need a little time off to celebrate this victory,” the Alabaman said. “The best way to celebrate freedom is to exercise freedom.”
The Supreme Court’s five Republican appointees supported the majority opinion while the four Democratic appointees dissented.
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