Supreme Court Will Consider Whether to Take Major Montana Campaign Contributions Case at Its January 4 Conference, A Case Which Could Pave the Way for Killing Federal Campaign Contribution Limits

According to the docket. 

It could also be when the Court considers whether to take the Austin campaign finance case.

As I wrote in Slate back in September:

As Common Cause’s Steve Spaulding notes, “Kavanaugh himself acknowledges in the docs that he’s far outside the mainstream here.” The documents reveal a person who is deeply skeptical of even the most basic campaign finance limits, the ones that say a wealthy person cannot simply write a $100 million check to a candidate to run for office. (Lest you think that amount is fanciful, it is less than the amount that casino magnate Sheldon Adelson and the Koch Brothers network have spent in recent elections, and Trump impeachment advocate Tom Steyer has spent nearly that much in the past.) The inequality of influence and corruption and its appearance that could stem from such a system is profound.

And yet this could well be the direction in which we are heading. Right now pending before the court is a cert petition asking the Supreme Court to review Montana’s campaign contribution limits. The issue in the 9thCircuit case of Lair v. Motl may seem a bit esoteric; it concerns how much evidence of corruption a state must produce to support a campaign contribution limit. But make no mistake: The Lair case, brought by Citizens United brainchild Jim Bopp, builds upon Chief Justice Roberts’ McCutcheon decision to argue for a standard that would lead courts to strike down virtually all contribution limits.

The court is also considering petition from opponents of city-level campaign contribution limits in Austin, Texas. Although a 5th Circuit panel upheld Austin’s limits in Zimmerman v. City of Austin, newly confirmed Judge Jim Ho wrote a strong dissent from the entire 5thCircuit’s decision not to rehear the case. Ho, a former clerk of campaign finance law opponent Justice Clarence Thomas, issued a screed arguing that all campaign finance laws violate the First Amendment and people who don’t like big money in politics should simply shrink the size of government so the government doesn’t have a lot of goodies to give away.

Neither Lair nor Zimmerman directly call the federal $2,700 campaign finance limit into question, but either or both cases could be the vehicle to create a precedent that would compel federal courts to strike down the $2,700 limit. It could even happen before the 2020 election. And because this is a constitutional ruling, there would be precious little that Congress could do about it (not that Mitch McConnell, who has helped engineer these events, from supporting the relevant lawsuits to blocking Merrick Garland and shoving Kavanaugh through the Senate without a full document release, would want to do anything but pop open a bottle of Champagne).

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