In a 5-4 decision handed down this morning, the U.S. Supreme Court continued its dismantling of the post-Watergate federal campaign finance system (McCutcheon v. FEC). Federal law limits the amount of money an individual donor may contribute to congressional candidates in a single election to $123,200. The effect of the law is to prohibit a person who hits the cap from making any additional direct contributions to individual candidates. The Court ruled that the anti-corruption rationale that supports limits on individual and PAC contributions to candidates cannot justify an aggregate cap that effectively prohibits a person from contributing to a candidate of his or her choice. The Court left in place the individual limits–at least for the time being.
The impact of this decision in Texas might be felt with respect to the Judicial Campaign Fairness Act, which limits aggregate law firm and general purpose PAC contributions to individual judicial candidates. To the extent that those aggregate limits would operate to bar a lawyer, firm, or GPAC from contributing directly to an individual candidate, they may be constitutionally suspect under today’s ruling.