by Fredreka Schouten, USA TODAY12:11p.m. EST February 19, 2013


WASHINGTON – In a move that could signal the end of a key restriction on political giving, the Supreme Court announced Tuesday it will consider a case challenging the limit on how much individuals can donate directly to federal candidates and political parties…

Groups that favor restrictions on political giving say ending the cap on aggregate donations could allow a single individual to pump millions into the campaign bank accounts of parties and candidates’ and give a wealthy few undue influence over government policymakers and their decisions.

“It will allow individual donors to directly buy corrupting influence with a president or House speaker or any other officeholder,” said Fred Wertheimer, president of Democracy 21, a campaign-finance watchdog group.

Dismantling the federal limit also could cast into doubt on state laws around the country. In New York, for instance, an individual cannot contribute more than $150,000 to candidates and political committees in the Empire State.

Experts are watching the McCutcheon case closely because it marks the first time since the Citizens United ruling that the court will weigh in on the constitutionality of direct contributions.

“The court has seemed skeptical of restrictions on political speech,” said Larry Norton, an election-law expert in Washington and a former general counsel at the Federal Election Commission. “Any campaign-finance restriction that gets heard by the Supreme Court right now is vulnerable.”

The case will be considered during the court’s next term, which starts in October.

The justices did not announce Tuesday whether they will take up another closely watched case, challenging the ban on direct corporate contributions to candidates and political parties.

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…and at Rick Hasen’s Election Law Blog: