McCutcheon ruling leaves room for legislative action

Julie Patel

For those riled by Wednesday’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling that lifted limits on aggregate contributions, there was something of a silver lining — the court said Congress or the Federal Election Commission can take steps that might lessen the impact of the expected increase in contributions on the political system.

For example, regulators could limit the size of joint fundraising committees, which would address one of the chief complaints levied by critics of the ruling.

“We are encouraged the court encourages us to take regulatory action and we hope to work with our colleagues” to do so, FEC Commissioner Ellen Weintraub, a Democrat, told the Center for Public Integrity Thursday after an agency meeting.

But given the deep partisan divide in Congress and the FEC’s tendency to deadlock on even minor issues, chances that new regulations related to the decision will be implemented are pretty slim.

Related: Supreme Court opens door to flood of political cash — again

While the three Democratic commissioners may push for changes such as increasing disclosure requirements, the FEC’s three Republicans are expected to support nothing more than matching the agency’s rules about aggregate limits to what’s explicitly laid out in the McCutcheon v. FEC decision.

Republican FEC Chairman Lee Goodman said he’s still assessing what, if anything, the FEC is “obligated” to do based on the ruling. But conforming the FEC’s rules on aggregate limits to agree with the ruling may not be needed, Goodman said.

The Supreme Court struck down overall limits on contributions, allowing people to donate to as many candidates and parties as they want. Individual contributions will still be capped.

Congress could create restrictions on transfers among candidates and political committees, limit the size of joint fundraising committees and beef up existing earmarking rules requiring added disclosure when a donor makes a contribution for a specific candidate through another person or group, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the majority opinion.

Related: More than a dozen states could throw out donation caps after McCutcheon ruling

There’s more to this story. Click here to read the rest at the Center for Public Integrity.

This story is part of Primary Source. Primary Source keeps you up-to-date on developments in the post-Citizens United world of money in politics. Click here to read more stories in this blog.

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Copyright 2014 The Center for Public Integrity. This story was published by The Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit, nonpartisan investigative news organization in Washington, D.C.