The Supreme Court’s McCutcheon v. FEC ruling has already been labeled a “disaster” and “scarier than Citizens United” by some reform groups. But for candidates and the national parties, who were marginalized four years ago by Citizens, it may be a boon.
The court’s decision to lift the aggregate contribution limits for individuals to candidates and national parties mean that major donors can now max out contributions of $32,400 to the three national committees of each party and aren’t bound by the aggregate biennial limit of $48,600 to candidates. Previously, they were limited to an aggregate limit of $123,200, of which only $74,600 could go to PACs and parties.
“The real winners will be national party committees,” says Neil Reiff, a campaign finance attorney at Sandler, Reiff, Young & Lamb. “It’s been the national committees who are able to find and cultivate these larger donors. If an individual wants to triple max each year to the three national committees, that is $194,400 for the two-year cycle, way more than the aggregate limit.”
As there were only about 650 rainmakers making contributions at that level last year, says Kirsten Borman, a GOP fundraising consultant, “this doesn’t affect a huge segment of the donor population.”
But it does change how the many candidates who chased these big donors operate.
“While normally there is a ‘race’ amongst certain candidates and elected officials to secure large contributions from these ultra-wealthy, mega-donors before they hit their biannual limits, that necessity will be gone,” she says. “With increased freedom for donors to give as they desire, we’ll likely see donors give to more candidates instead of Super PACs and other entities.”
With more money on the table, candidates will be spending more time soliciting, which means more time dialing for dollars.
“Candidates will have more call time,” says Lisa Wagner, an Illinois-based fundraising consultant. “Now donors have no reason they can’t give.”