James v. FEC Named “Petition of the Day”


James v. FEC Named “Petition of the Day”


ALEXANDRIA, Va. –  SCOTUSblog on Wednesday named James v. FEC as the petition of the day, which is given to cases that raise “one or more questions that have a reasonable chance of being granted.”  The Center for Competitive Politics (CCP) represents the plaintiff, Virginia James, who is challenging the aggregate limit on candidate contributions.

The case stems from the efforts of Virginia James, who seeks to give contributions directly to candidates up to the biennial aggregate limit of $123,200. However, federal law allows only $48,600 of that amount, in aggregate, to be given directly to candidates; the rest must be contributed to PACs and party committees. According to CCP Legal Director Allen Dickerson, James is not challenging the overall limit, but rather wishes to give the entirety of her contributions to candidates directly, instead of being forced to act through PACs and other political organizations.

JURIST Guest Columnist Justin Levitt of the Loyola Law School this week analyzed the James case and its intersection with the McCutcheon v. FEC case that challenges the biennial limit. Here are excerpts from Levitt’s analysis:

“The Court agreed to hear more from the parties on McCutcheon, which likely means a more extensive decision. Professor Rick Hasen rightly notes that this is a significant step — and the blogosphere is on fire with predictable predictions that the Court is poised to upend campaign finance law once again. But I think the real significance may be different than the primary chatter indicates. And I think much will depend on the other shoe, yet to drop: what happens to James….

Instead, the real significance of the [McCutcheon] case may come with a decision whether to hear James at the same time… James is about contributions to candidates [and] McCutcheon concerns candidates as well, but adds the complicating factors of party committees and PACs — artificial entities that can be formed at will, each of which can receive more money per person, and for whom there may be significantly more reason to act as a conduit. There are far more reasons for Congress to be concerned about contributions to parties and PACs — and for the Court to credit those concerns — than for it to regulate [a donor’s contributions to all candidates combined].  But it is easier to lose sight of the most significant elements in McCutcheon if James is not also before the Court to focus attention on the distinct roles that PACs and parties play.

The Court has not yet decided what to do with James: whether to hold it, address it summarily or hear it with McCutcheon. Its decision could well signal what aspects of the case have drawn the Court’s attention.”

A copy of the jurisdictional statement to the Supreme Court in the James case can be found here. 

The Center for Competitive Politics is now the Institute for Free Speech.