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Supreme Court decision on fund-raising limits will affect state rules

For big-spending campaign contributors in Massachusetts, today might be a good time to order new checkbooks.

This morning’s Supreme Court decision that declared unconstitutional limits on aggregate federal campaign contributions will also impact the overall amount top donors can give to candidates running for state and local office in Massachusetts.

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The Court ruled that while it is OK to have limits on how much an individual can give to a single federal candidate — currently $2,600 per election — limiting the number of candidates one can give to in an election cycle violated the First Amendment. Individuals are currently allowed to give a total of no more than $48,600 every two years. That means, for example, they could not give the maximum contribution to all US senators during one election cycle.

A spokesman for the Massachusetts Office of Campaign and Political Finance said the ruling means the agency will no longer enforce state limits on aggregate giving from individuals to candidates for state, county and local office.

“There is no more $12,500 limit,” said Jason Tait, the spokesman for the agency, referring to the overall yearly limit for giving to all Massachusetts candidates running for in-state offices.

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Individuals are still prohibited from giving more than $500 per year to any one state candidate or their political committee. But, should they choose, donors would now be allowed to give, for example, to every candidate running for every office. Before today, they would have been limited to giving the $500 maximum to 25 candidates each year.

Tait said the agency had not yet made a determination about how the high court’s ruling would impact state aggregate contribution limits to other political entities, such as state parties and political action committees.

In the Court’s opinion accompanying the 5-4 decision, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that the overall limits “intrude without justification on a citizen’s ability to exercise ‘the most fundamental First Amendment activities.’”

Opponents of the decision decried a ruling they said would give the wealthy increased — and outsized — influence in politics.

“This decision will dramatically increase the corrupting influence of big money, here in Massachusetts and across the country,” Pam Wilmot, the executive director of Common Cause Massachusetts, said in a statement.

Meanwhile, at least one Democratic candidate wasted little time before deriding the decision in the case, McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission.

Donald M. Berwick, one of five Democrats and 10 candidates running for governor, said in a statement he was “deeply concerned” with the ruling.

“[T]he last thing we need is even more influence concentrated in the hands of the wealthy and well connected,” he said.

Joshua Miller can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @jm_bos.
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