FEC: FEC Reminded it has No Authority to Strike Down Contribution Limits in Filing by Campaign Legal Center and Democracy 21


The Campaign Legal Center, together with Democracy 21, filed comments today with the Federal Election Commission (FEC), reminding the commission that it has no authority to strike down statutory aggregate contribution limits, or any other laws passed by Congress, as requested by Advisory Opinion Request (AOR) 2012-14.

The AOR filed on behalf of Shaun McCutcheon asks the FEC to declare unconstitutional the $46,200 biennial limit on aggregate contributions from individuals to candidates and their authorized committees, though the request both acknowledges and later ignores that a statutory aggregate contribution limit has been upheld by the Supreme Court.

McCutcheon cites no authority that would authorize the Commission to do what he asks.  He acknowledges that the “Commission may be tempted to invoke ‘restraint’ and lean on both the letter of the statute and purported wisdom of Congress.”  AOR 2012-14 at 9.  (In this statement, he appears to ignore the ruling in Buckley upholding the section 441a(a) aggregate limit.)

“The Supreme Court in Buckley made very clear that aggregate limits are constitutional, yet this request asks the Commission to exceed its authority by declaring such a limit unconstitutional, thus opening the door for individuals to contribute millions of dollars to candidates and authorized committees every single election cycle,” said Paul S. Ryan, FEC Program Director for the Campaign Legal Center.  “The FEC is an administrative agency, not a court of law.  The agency clearly lacks the legal authority to adjudicate the constitutionality of a duly-enacted statute.”

“The issue raised in this AOR was squarely resolved by the Supreme Court in 1976 in Buckley v. Valeo which held constitutional the aggregate limits on contributions in federal campaign finance law,” said Fred Wertheimer, President of Democracy 21.  “There has been nothing in Supreme Court rulings since then to indicate that the Court has changed its views on this matter.  Even those FEC Commissioners who are consistently unwilling to properly enforce and interpret the laws cannot believe that they are empowered to overrule Supreme Court decisions.”

The comments emphasize that the FEC has no choice but to inform McCutcheon that if he exceeds the limit he will be in violation of federal law.  Further they stress that if a lawsuit is filed the FEC “must meet McCutcheon in court and defend the law once again.”

To read the comments, click here.