As this Legislative Review explains, a Center for Competitive Politics’ survey of 2013 state legislative activity shows that nine states – Alabama, Arizona, Connecticut, Florida, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, and Wyoming – raised or eliminated various campaign contribution limits last year. Five states increased their limits by 100% or more, two more increased their limits by 50%, and one repealed its limit on direct corporate contributions to candidates.
Since the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United ruling that allowed trade associations, corporations, and labor unions to spend independently of candidates without limit and the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in SpeechNow.org v. FEC that created Super PACs, 13 states, or over one-third of the 38 states that impose contribution limits on individuals, have increased or repealed contribution limits in some manner. (Twelve states do not limit candidate contributions by individuals). Also in 2013, two more states – Montana and Tennessee – were a gubernatorial veto and two votes short of House passage to a favorable Senate, respectively, of raising their limits. Following this trend, in the first month of 2014, Vermont increased its contribution limits, and Oklahoma appears poised to act too.
While there are many strong First Amendment and pro-competitiveness reasons for increasing or eliminating contribution limits, lawmakers appear to be most concerned with giving candidates and political parties a stronger voice in election campaigns by allowing candidates and parties to raise more funds.
This Legislative Review explains why so many states are raising or eliminating their campaign contribution limits, previews potential legislative developments on this issue in other states in 2014, and summarizes the details and political context of the contribution limit legislation that was signed into law in nine states in 2013.