02-26-2017  11:01 pm      •     
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Supreme Court will wade once again into the politically tricky issue of campaign finance laws, agreeing to hear a challenge to individual donation limits in federal election campaigns.

At issue is whether strict limits on direct campaign contributions by individuals-- in the Federal Election Campaign Act-- violate the First Amendment. Oral arguments will be held in the fall.

The appeal comes from Alabama donor Shaun McCutcheon, supported in court by the Republican National Committee. They object to a 1970s-era law restricting someone from giving no more than $46,200 to federal candidates, and $70,800 to political action committees, during a two-year election cycle.

McCutcheon says he has a constitutional right to donate over that amount to as many candidates as he wants, so long as no one candidate gets more than the current $2500 limit.

Lower federal courts have rejected his appeal.

This case deals with political contributions. A separate 2010 high court case dealt with campaign spending by outside groups, seeking to influence federal elections. There, the conservative majority-- citing free speech concerns-- eased long-standing restrictions on "independent spending" by corporations, labor unions, and certain non-profit advocacy groups in political campaigns.

The so-called "Citizens United" ruling helped open the floodgates to massive corporate spending in the 2012 elections and gave birth to super PACs - and trumps state laws. It also led to further litigation seeking to loosen current restrictions on both the spending and donations areas.

Supporters of campaign finance reform say such laws are designed to prevent corruption in politics. Opponents said it would criminalize free speech and association.

The case is McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission (12-536).

 

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