Buckley v. Valeo and McCutcheon

I had not read in many years the discussion in Buckley upholding the aggregate contributions cap now at issue in the McCutcheon case.  Turns out the entire discussion in Buckley’s otherwise massive opinion is one paragraph long.  That makes it easy to reproduce, so I thought I would.  In a general section of the opinion entitled “Contribution Limitations,” here is the entire discussion:

4. The 25,000 Limitation on Total Contributions During any Calendar Year

In addition to the $1,000 limitation on the nonexempt contributions that an individual may make to a particular candidate for any single election, the Act contains an over-all $25,000 limitation on total contributions by an individual during any calendar year. § 608(b)(3). A contribution made in connection with an election is considered, for purposes of this subsection, to be made in the year the election is held. Although the constitutionality of this provision was drawn into question by appellants, it has not been separately addressed at length by the parties. The over-all $25,000 ceiling does impose an ultimate restriction upon the number of candidates and committees with which an individual may associate himself by means of financial support. But this quite modest restraint upon protected political activity serves to prevent evasion of the $1,000 contribution limitation by a person who might otherwise contribute massive amounts of money to a particular candidate through the use of unearmarked contributions to political committees likely to contribute to that candidate, or huge contributions to the candidate’s political party. The limited, additional restriction on associational freedom imposed by the over-all ceiling is thus no more than a corollary of the basic individual contribution limitation that we have found to be constitutionally valid.

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