This chapter, written for an edited volume on campaign finance, examines aggregate contribution limits and their potential to combat corruption. Base limits cap the amount one can contribute to individual candidates, while aggregate limits cap the amount one can give to all candidates. As I explain, base limits should tend to affect the magnitude of corrupt acts while aggregate limits should tend to affect their frequency. The Supreme Court failed to appreciate that second point in McCutcheon v. FEC, concluding that aggregate limits serve no anti-corruption purpose and violate the Constitution. Many observers interpreted McCutcheon to foreclose all aggregate limits, and some states stopped enforcing their aggregate limits as a result, but that reaction is unjustified. McCutcheon does not reach beyond federal law, and aggregate limits remain viable at sub-national levels of government. They offer an under-theorized but important mechanism for reducing corruption.

Michael D. Gilbert, Contributions and Corruption: Restoring Aggregate Limits in the States, in Democracy by the People: Reforming Campaign Finance in America, Cambridge University Press, 328–343 (2018).