Vitaliy Kats, Because, the Internet: The Limits of Online Campaign Finance Disclosure

67 Fla. L. Rev 1513 |

During the 2011–2012 election cycle, Shaun McCutcheon contributed $33,088 to sixteen different candidates for federal office.  McCutcheon’s donations complied with the base limits the Federal Election Commission (FEC) set for contributions to individual candidates.McCutcheon wanted to contribute more but was barred by the FEC’s aggregate limit on contributions.In June of 2012, McCutcheon and the Republication National Committee (RNC) filed a complaint before a three-judge panel of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. McCutcheon and the RNC claimed that the aggregate limits on contributions to candidates and political committees were unconstitutional under the First Amendment.The three-judge panel granted the Government’s motion to dismiss, holding that the aggregate limits are constitutional because they prevent circumvention of the base limits.McCutcheon and the RNC then appealed directly to the Supreme Court under 28 U.S.C. § 1253.The Supreme Court reversed the lower court’s decision and struck down the aggregate campaign contribution limits—established by the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 (FECA)—on the grounds that the limits were an unnecessary burden on freedom of association under the First Amendment.The Court observed that the environment of campaign finance disclosure was far more transparent in the age of the Internet. The Court reasoned that the Internet allows access to an unprecedented level of information regarding campaign contributions and may actually render certain outdated campaign finance restrictions moot.

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