Supreme Court Merits Briefs Filed in McCutcheon v FEC

Last June, Shaun McCutcheon and the Republican National Committee filed a lawsuit to vindicate a fundamental principle: no government may impose a limit on how many candidates, political parties, or other election-related groups a person is allowed to support in any election cycle. When the Supreme Court announced it would hear the appeal in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, the case was the subject of headlines and editorials from the New York Times to the Wall Street Journal. Yesterday, McCutcheon and the RNC each filed their merits briefs with the Court, setting the case up for oral argument later this year. (Find McCutcheon’s brief here; RNC’s brief here)

The lawsuit specifically challenges the federal aggregate contribution limits enacted as part of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, also known as “McCain-Feingold.”  While Congress has already imposed strict limits on the amount a person may contribute to any single candidate, political party, or PAC, the aggregate limits impose an additional, overall cap that functions to prevent a person from contributing small amounts of money to “too many” candidates or groups.  McCutcheon’s brief persuasively argues that the FEC cannot justify the aggregate limits either as an anti-corruption measure or as a method of preventing circumvention of the base limits, which is already foreclosed by numerous specific provisions, for example prohibiting undisclosed earmarks and contributions in the name of another.

The aggregate limits are therefore at odds with the First Amendment. They are entirely unnecessary in light of the base contribution limits and maze of additional federal regulations, yet seriously infringe the associational rights of Americans to support as many candidates and political committees as they wish without government interference.

McCutcheon is represented by Jerad Najvar of Houston-based Najvar Law Firm, DB Capitol Strategies in Washington, DC, and Michael Morley, election law and appellate litigator. The RNC is represented by the Bopp Law Firm and Stephen M. Hoersting.