Protecting representative democracy

The Supreme Court should uphold the aggregate limits on campaign contributions.

Earlier this month, the Supreme Court heard a potential landmark case involving campaign finance regulation.

It’s been several years since the court handed down its controversial decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, ruling that the government may not ban political spending by corporations or unions. With political spending now defined as a form of protected speech, the justices will weigh in on McCutcheon v. FEC, a case which challenges the aggregate spending limit that prevents an individual from giving more than $123,000 to various political candidates and election committees during a two-year federal election cycle.

Shaun McCutcheon, an Alabama businessman, contends that the overall cap on contributions is unconstitutional and violates the First Amendment right to free speech. The government argues that the limits play an important role in preventing political corruption, adding that without the aggregate cap, an individual could donate up to $3.6 million to various candidates and committees in a single election cycle.

The limits put in place on campaign contributions act as a reasonable method of ensuring fairness in our democracy. Without them, wealthy donors could have a disproportionate amount of influence on elections, and the principles of equal representation are that much more difficult to achieve. Specifically, the aggregate limit works to prevent donors from influencing numerous elections around the country, in places he or she does not even live. With the limit in place, wealthy donors are more likely to use the $123,200 they are allowed to spend on races closer to home.

In Buckley v. Valeo, the court ruled that contributions to specific candidates may be regulated because of the potential for political corruption. The court should not go back on that logic.