More Soft Money Hard Law: Investigating the “Structure” of Contribution Limits: “Elementary, Holmes” (In the News)

More Soft Money Hard Law: Investigating the “Structure” of Contribution Limits: “Elementary, Holmes”

By Bob Bauer

The FEC will be defending the “structure” of the contribution limits this week in the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. The case, Holmes v. Federal Election Commission, tests the constitutionality of the “per election” limits as applied to a donor’s choice to participate only in the one-the general-election. If a donor skips a primary, and wishes only to contribute in the general, she now cannot give the full amount allowed for the election cycle cycle, $5400, but only half of that: $2700, the “per election” limit for the general. The Holmes plaintiffs’ point is that this bifurcation of the limits serves no legitimate anti-corruption purpose… 

The problem presented by the bifurcation of the limits is worsened by the messiness of its application. Incumbents and other largely unopposed candidates do well under this system, collecting money for primaries they don’t have to compete in and transferring the money to their general election accounts…

Defending this arrangement just adds to the inefficiencies and cost of compliance with the “regular” campaign finance system, and to the reasons why candidates and parties flee from it.