Shaun McCutcheon is a frequent contributor to Republican candidates, PACs and the Republican National Committee. In the process of cutting checks last cycle, he ran into the FEC’s aggregate limits. So while he didn’t want to exceed individual limits of $2,500 to a candidate per election, $30,800 to a national party per year and $10,000 to other political committees per year, when he added up all his donations, he exceeded the aggregate limit of $46,200 to candidates and $70,800 to all other committees. McCutcheon wanted his contributions to candidates to top the individual limit by about $8,000 and the limit to parties and PACs by just over $26,000.
At first blush, the challenge seems to make logical sense. McCutcheon isn’t giving any one candidate a suitcase full of cash. He’s abiding by the federal contribution limits. But the case has caught the eye of election law experts because it could open the door to contribution limits more generally.
“The issue that is lurking is whether or not this becomes a springboard to further challenges to contribution limits,” says Richard Briffault of Columbia Law School. McCutcheon’s lawyer, Indiana’s James Bopp, hopes the justices take a dive of that springboard.
“It provides the opportunity for the court, if it wants to, to opine and even re-examine how they treat contribution limits,” says Bopp, who also worked on the Citizens United case. “We will certainly be providing a basis for the court to do that if they want to.”