WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court appeared likely today to throw out caps on some contributions by the biggest individual donors to political campaigns.
The court’s conservative justices voiced repeated skepticism about overall limits on what individuals may give in a two-year federal election cycle.
Chief Justice John Roberts, possibly the pivotal vote in the case, said that telling an individual he can give the legal maximum of $2,600 per election to only a handful of candidates for Congress “seems to me a very direct restriction” on First Amendment rights.
The court did not appear willing to call into question all contribution limits in its first major campaign finance case since the Citizens United decision in 2010 took the lid off independent spending by corporations and labor unions.
Solicitor General Donald Verrilli struggled to persuade conservative justices who are skeptical of campaign finance laws that the overall limits serve as a check on corruption. Without them, Verrilli said, donors could write checks of more than $3.5 million and noted that non-presidential election cycles cost a political party and its candidates roughly $1.5 billion.