WASHINGTON -- Some wealthy donors have already blown past limits on campaign contributions to political parties that were voided by the Supreme Court's McCutcheon decision last month.
The court's 5-4 ruling came on April 2, and by the end of that month, at least 41 donors had plowed past the old aggregate limits restricting how much one donor could give to political parties and political action committees. Prior to the court's ruling, donors could only give $74,600 to parties and PACs in one election cycle. Now, they're giving into the six-figures.
Among those taking advantage of the new rules were billionaire conservative funder David Koch, reality television star Donald Trump, two-time Republican Senate candidate and wrestling executive Linda McMahon, hedge fund executive and neoconservative Paul Singer, former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson and casino billionaire Steve Wynn. The donations were disclosed in reports filed with the Federal Election Commission on Tuesday.
Wealthy Donors Take Advantage of Post-McCutcheon Campaign Finance Rules
Source: Federal Election Commission
The Republican Party is the biggest beneficiary of the court ruling. The Republican National Committee, the party's central organ, joined the McCutcheon case against the FEC to challenge the aggregate limits to party committees. The majority of donors primed to go past the old limits after the ruling were Republicans. Just six of the donors passing the defunct limits gave primarily to Democrats. One -- John J. Megrue, Jr. -- mixed his contributions between the parties.
The top donor to parties and PACs is a Democratic donor. Maryland-based tech entrepreneur Frank Islam has given $183,900 to Democratic Party committees and PACs in the 2014 election cycle. He was one of a handful of donors who had passed the aggregate limits long before the court's ruling.
Islam is typical of donors taking advantage of new avenues for campaign money. He is a longtime party donor who has bundled contributions for the likes of President Barack Obama and has received plum positions on the board of the Export-Import Bank and the Kennedy Center Board of Trustees.
Most of the post-McCutcheon donors have a history of big giving to their favored political party. Many, unlike Islam, carefully planned their giving to stay within the bounds of the pre-McCutcheon aggregate limits.
Eleven donors had already given the maximum $74,600 to parties and PACs by the time of the court's McCutcheon ruling. They made sure to stay within what were then the limits.
Not all, however, have stayed within bounds in the past. The Huffington Post reported that dozens of donors had violated the aggregate contribution limits with impunity in the 2012 elections. The FEC said it was investigating. Three donors who came under investigation -- Gary Chouest, James B. Nicholson, and Diane Wilsey -- are among those taking advantage of the McCutcheon decision.
The two major political parties can be expected to take further advantage of the new rules as they engage in an arms race for money ahead of the 2014 elections. The Republican Party has already launched a joint fundraising committee linking the RNC with the National Republican Congressional Committee and the National Republican Senatorial Committee. This super committee will be able to accept a single check of $97,200 from a single donor.