The Supreme Court's conservative-liberal split was evident during arguments on the challenge to individuals' aggregate campaign finance limits, but a search for middle ground seemed possible.
A sharply-divided US Supreme Court engaged in a pointed debate on Tuesday over whether limiting the total amount of money an individual can give to federal candidates and political committees violates the free-speech rights of would-be campaign contributors.
By the conclusion of the hour-long argument it appeared the aggregate campaign finance limits under challenge would be struck down. But it also seemed likely that in accomplishing that result the majority justices would wield a scalpel rather than a meat ax.
At issue in the case, McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission (12-536), is a provision of federal campaign finance law that restricts the total amount of money an individual can give during a two-year election cycle.
Those challenging the law complain that contributors are already subject to base contribution limits of $2,600 per candidate and up to $32,400 for political committees.
Those base limits were set by Congress to protect against the threat of excessively large and potentially corrupting contributions from one individual to a candidate or party.
The question in the case is whether given those base limits, the second-tier of regulations – the so-called aggregate limit set at $123,200 – is necessary and constitutionally justified.
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