Federal Court Rulings Prompt Wave of States Hiking Campaign Contribution Limits

By Wachob, Luke | Examiner (Washington, D.C.), The, May 13, 2014 | Go to article overview

Federal Court Rulings Prompt Wave of States Hiking Campaign Contribution Limits


Wachob, Luke, Examiner (Washington, D.C.), The


Federal court rulings that struck down limits on independent spending in elections in 2010 triggered a wave of 13 new state laws raising or eliminating campaign contribution limits for candidates, parties, and political action committees.

The laws were in reaction to the Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling and the subsequent D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in SpeechNow.org v. Federal Election Commission that created Super PACs, according to a new report from the Center for Competitive Politics.

With independent spending groups playing a larger role in campaigns, candidates and their political parties are often pushed to the sidelines by low caps on campaign contributions.

While there are many strong First Amendment and pro-electoral competition reasons for increasing or eliminating contribution limits, lawmakers appear to be most concerned with giving candidates and political parties a stronger voice in election campaigns by allowing candidates and parties to raise more funds.

The move to increase contribution limits is bipartisan. For example, Minnesota Democratic State Rep. Ryan Winkler said low limits mean big dollar donors give their money to third party groups that spend on behalf of candidates. As a result, he said, "the candidate becomes relatively insignificant in the election."

The CCE report surveyed the activity of state legislatures since 2010, the year of the Citizens United and SpeechNow.org rulings, finding that more than one-third of the 38 states that impose contribution limits on individuals have increased or repealed them.

In the last year alone, nine states - Alabama, Arizona, Connecticut, Florida, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina and Wyoming - have either raised or eliminated various contribution limits.

Of the nine states, five increased their limits by 100 percent or more, two more increased their limits by 50 percent, and one (Alabama) repealed its limit on direct corporate contributions to candidates, making Alabama the sixth state in the country to impose no limits on the size or source of campaign contributions. …

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