It has been three years since the United States Supreme Court handed down their landmark decision in Citizens United v. The Federal Election Commission which opened up more free political speech to Americans. Now the nine justices will hear another free political speech case in McCutcheon v. The Federal Election Commission this fall.
At issue in McCutcheon is the aggregated election cycle limits on the amounts that individuals may lawfully contribution to Federal candidates, political party committees, and other political committees. The law currently limits not only the amounts that an individual may contribute to a single candidate or a particular political party or other political committee such as a Political Action Committee, but also the total amounts that an individual may contribute during a two-year election cycle to all candidates, political party committees, and other political committees.
For the 2013-2014 election cycle the limits are $48,600 for contributions to candidates and $74,600 for contributions to political committees. These limits are artificially low and will force the contributor to pick and choose which candidate he or she wants to contribute to. Thus, when an individual has given $2,600 to 18 candidates, he or she is only permitted to give an additional $1800 in contributions to all other candidates for the election cycle. These overreaching government regulations just chill free speech.
The regulations were spawned out of Buckley v. Valeo, which was decided by the Supreme Court in 1976. The Court held that limits on contributions to candidates and political committees are subject to an intermediate level of scrutiny. In Buckley v. Valeo the Court concluded that the limits were a constitutional means of deterring quid pro quo corruption or the appearance of corruption.
The problem with the theory of aggregate election cycle limits is those contributions are already kept in check by annual limits on candidate and political committees. So to think quid pro quo would be tamed by aggregate election cycle limits is a misnomer. These limits in campaign spending are just another attempt to kill free speech.
Time and again liberals have said that money needs to be taken out of the political process for the betterment of our democracy. As with other liberal memes, this one has no place in our democracy because it actually limits it. Money is political speech as the United States Supreme Court recognized in Citizens United. To limit any money in the political process chills speech and the aggregate limits set forth by the Federal Election Commission are just more barriers put up by government bureaucrats.
No one can predict how the United States Supreme Court will rule in McCutcheon – look at Obamacare as an example of how unpredictable the Court can be. But with its recent rulings like Citizens United it is becoming increasingly clear that the Court is on the side of free political speech for a change. All Americans have a right for their voices to be heard in political debate. A victory in McCutcheon will only build on that principle.