A Guide to Political and Lobbying Activities

The U.S. Supreme Court on April 2 struck down an aggregate cap on individual contributions over a two-year election cycle to federal candidates, parties and political committees. (McCutcheon v. Fed. Election Comm’n, 572 U.S. ____ (2014)). Effectively finding that the presence of any such cap was arbitrary, and building on its First Amendment analysis in Citizens United v. Fed. Election Comm’n, 558 U.S. 310 (2010), the Court held in a 5-4 decision that an aggregate biennial cap did not present a sufficient risk of corruption to limit individual political giving.

Previously, an individual donor was prohibited from making more than $123,200 in contributions over a two-year election cycle to all federal candidates and committees. Sub-limits within the aggregate cap restricted a donor from contributing more than $48,600 in an election cycle to individual candidates and $74,600 to all other federal recipients, such as political parties. Now, those aggregate contribution limits are unconstitutional.

While these aggregate caps are no longer in place, individual limits per recipient still apply, such as the $2,600 limit per candidate per election, and the $5,000 annual limit per corporate PAC. Click here to access our updated political giving chart from Appendix B of the K&L Gates Guide to Political and Lobbying Activities illustrating how the Supreme Court’s decision has changed political giving options for individual donors.

With no aggregate caps on individual giving, the likely outcome is that like-minded organizations already registered and reporting with the Federal Election Commission (such as party committees and congressional campaigns) will join forces under the umbrella of a joint fundraising committee (JFC). A JFC may accept a single, larger contribution up to the maximum total amount permitted by each individual participant in the JFC, which is then distributed to all participants according to a set formula.

The entire Guide to Political and Lobbying Activities has been updated to reflect the McCutcheon decision. Click here to download the Guide.


Topics:  FEC, Lobbying, McCutcheon v. FEC, Political Campaigns

Published In: Constitutional Law Updates, Elections & Politics Updates, Finance & Banking Updates

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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