The Supreme Court and the October Term: What’s Next?
Posted on July 30, 2013 by Andre' Cotten, NAACP Law Fellow
After ending a historic term, what’s next for the Supreme Court? The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear McCutcheon v. FEC that will challenge the constitutionality of federal aggregate contribution limits, which caps the total amount of money that individuals are permitted to contribute to all federal candidates, parties, and PACs over the course of an election cycle. McCutcheon is set to be the most important federal campaign finance case since the court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United, which struck down limits on independent campaign spending by corporations and unions. This case is an attack on the other main pillar of federal campaign finance regulation: limits on contributions made directly to political candidates and some political committees.
With the current limits in place, candidates who seek office have to rely on contributions from tens of thousands of Americans. However, with no limits in place, this will allow extremely wealthy people and corporations donate to candidates limitlessly. Essentially, a candidate’s efforts to raise funds would go from trying to develop a platform that will attract thousands of Americans to a platform that needs to only appeal to a select group of extremely wealthy donors.
A system without aggregate limits has the ability to undermine voter’s confidence in the democratic process, especially when they don’t feel like their voices are being heard or respected. This confidence is especially important in our effort to get and keep African Americans and other minorities actively engaged in the political process. In addition, unleashing more concentrated wealth into our political system violates the core American ideal of political equality, the basic principle of one-person, one-vote, the same concern that animates our efforts to protect every citizen’s right to vote and have the vote property counted regardless of race, creed, or class. In a majoritarian democracy, all citizens should have an equal opportunity to influence the decisions that affect our daily lives.
The NAACP has filed an amicus brief opposing the removal of the federal aggregate contribution limits. Until the court reconvenes during the October term, we are left only to wait and wonder about what the court is thinking this time.