McCutcheon has allowed at least $39 million more in presidential election
• Sep 12, 2016
Josh Stewart, The Sunlight Foundation
In 2014, the Supreme Court’s decision in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission (FEC) eliminated the so-called aggregate limits on political contributions, that placed a ceiling on the total amount a single donor could give across campaigns, PACs and federal and state party committees. This, combined with the court’s Citizens United decision, which allowed outside groups to spend unlimited and often untraceable amounts of money on our elections, empowers the wealthiest of donors to give more and more.
And these big donors are taking advantage: Sunlight estimates that at least $39 million more has flowed into the presidential fundraising committees than would have if the aggregate limits still existed today, according to data from the latest FEC filings and Sunlight’s Real-Time Influence Explorer.
Hillary Clinton’s joint fundraising committee, Hillary Victory Fund, which is a partnership between her campaign, the DNC and 33 state parties has raised $142 million total. A least $28 million of that money would not have been available before the McCutcheon decision.
Donald Trump’s joint fundraising committee, Trump Victory, raised a total of $25.6 million according to the latest filings. At least $11.5 million of that is more than he would have been able to raise if the aggregate rules were still in place. Some of the money Trump has raised, though, goes toward special accounts that can only be used for legal, headquarters and convention purposes.
These types of high-dollar JFCs create a one-stop shop for very wealthy donors to contribute and get access to politicians and their high-level staff.
The 2016 election is the first presidential campaign since the McCutcheon decision, and the candidates are exploiting loopholes by using joint fundraising committees (JFCs) to raise bigger-than-ever bucks. Simply put, a JFC is a committee that benefits two or more candidates, PACs or party committees. According to Sunlight’s own Campaign Finance 101 Glossary, "Since McCutcheon v. FEC, donors can contribute as much as they want to these committees, and the money will be split amongst the beneficiaries in accordance with legal limits.” But there's a reason why JFCs have become so popular recently.