High Court Allows Coordinated Campaign Spending Limits

Posted March 21, 2011 at 1:26pm

The Supreme Court on Monday declined to review limits on coordinated election spending between national party committees and federal candidates, meaning the restrictions will remain in place.

By not taking up the case of Cao v. Federal Election Commission, the Supreme Court let stand a decision by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals that affirmed restrictions on how much parties can spend after consultation with Congressional campaigns. 

Lawyers for former Rep. Anh “Joseph” Cao (R-La.) argued that limits on coordinated spending infringe on the national party committee’s freedom of speech.

“This morning the Supreme Court deferred to precedent and declined to hear this attack on the long-standing limits on party coordinated spending,” said attorney Tara Malloy of the Campaign Legal Center. “Plaintiffs’ challenge would have blown huge loopholes in the federal campaign finance laws and enabled large-scale circumvention of the individual contribution limits.”  

The effects on the 2012 election campaigns will be twofold. First, national party committees and candidates will not be able to tag-team with each other on campaign expenses. Campaign finance reform advocates argued that knocking down these rules could allow large party donors to foot the bill for many candidate expenses. 

Secondly, the decision closes a potential loophole where individuals could indirectly donate more than 12 times the legal limit to a candidate. An individual is allowed to donate $2,500 per election to a federal candidate. But individuals are allowed to give $30,800 to party committees, and if coordinated spending were unlimited, the party committees could spend these dollars the way the candidate requested.