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Campaign Spending Limits Case: Blowback for Maine?

PHOTO: Campaign finance reform advocates in Maine are watching a case before the U.S. Supreme Court that could impact the state's existing limits on donations to candidates. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.
PHOTO: Campaign finance reform advocates in Maine are watching a case before the U.S. Supreme Court that could impact the state's existing limits on donations to candidates. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.
October 14, 2013

PORTLAND, Maine - A case before the U.S. Supreme Court could do away with limits on how much individuals can donate to political candidates, and some people say that could do harm to Maine's campaign finance reform efforts. An Alabama businessman, Shaun McCutcheon, and the Republican National Committee want to remove the limit on contributions by a single donor to federal candidates and political action committees during any two-year election cycle. The current limit is just over $123,000.

Stephen Spaulding, an attorney for Common Cause, pointed out that Maine, like 11 other states with aggregate contribution limits, could feel the effect of a ruling in favor of McCutcheon.

"Those are at issue: again, depending on the logic of the opinion, the aggregate contribution limits in these states could also go by the wayside, depending on the decision," Spaulding said.

Critics say the Citizens United ruling two years ago and the rise of so-called super PACs have flooded the system with money and the McCutcheon case could open the taps wider.

According to lawyer Spaulding, momentum is growing in an effort to negate the effects of the Citizens United ruling that held, in effect, that "corporations are people" and that the First Amendment permitted unlimited campaign-related spending by corporations and labor unions, and not just by individuals.

"Over a third of the Senate has gone on record supporting a constitutional amendment, in this Congress; over a third of the House of Representatives; we've seen a number of constitutional amendments introduced that now have the support of a third of the states, a third of the House and a third of the Senate," Spaulding said.

In the McCutcheon case, Supreme Court observers said that, based on questions asked by the Justices last week, the court's ruling will likely go according to its familiar alignments among the justices, forecasting trouble for campaign finance regulation.



Mark Scheerer, Public News Service - ME