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Shaun McCutcheon, the lead plaintiff in a high-profile campaign finance challenge the U.S. Supreme Court will soon consider, made an excessive contribution to the Alabama Republican Party’s federal political committee last year, records show.

McCutcheon, a general contractor by trade, donated $1,000 to the Alabama Republican Party on Nov. 12, 2012, according to a Center for Public Integrity review of campaign finance records maintained by the Center for Responsive Politics. He had already contributed the legal maximum of $10,000 to the party’s federal account earlier in 2012.

McCutcheon is an outspoken critic of existing federal law that limits the overall dollar amount that any one person may collectively donate to federal candidates, parties and political action committees.

This aggregate contribution limit, which is indexed to inflation, is currently set at $123,200. The Supreme Court’s McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission case — oral arguments are scheduled for Tuesday — will determine whether that limit is lifted or changed.

“Shaun had sponsored an event that he thought was a state-account event,” Dan Backer, McCutcheon’s lawyer, told the Center for Public Integrity in an email about his client’s excessive contribution.

“Turns out it was deposited in the federal account,” Backer continued. “We’ll be contacting the AL GOP to advise them to redesignate or refund.”

Mallory Jackson, the Alabama Republican Party’s treasurer, told the Center for Public Integrity that “there is software in place to avoid this situation, but it does not catch everything.”

Under Alabama law, individuals are allowed to donate unlimited amounts to state political parties for their state-focused accounts. Federal law, however, caps individuals’ contributions to state parties’ federal committees at $10,000 per year.

Records filed with the FEC show that McCutcheon donated $26,000 to the Alabama Republican Party’s federal committee in January 2012 and another $250 four months later. His excessive $16,250 in contributions were swiftly refunded and then re-gifted to the party’s state account, state and federal campaign finance records indicate.

According to the Center for Public Integrity’s analysis, McCutcheon donated about $66,000 to federal candidates, parties and PACs during the 2011-2012 election cycle.

That includes about $35,000 split between 15 federal candidates, including contributions to GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney and Republican U.S. Senate candidates Josh Mandel of Ohio and Richard Mourdock of Indiana.

McCutcheon also gave more than $300,000 to two conservative super PACs with which he was personally involved.

There are no limits on the size of contributions people may make to super PACs, which arose after the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. FEC ruling and a lower court decision called SpeechNow.org v. FEC. Both cases were decided in 2010.

Ben Wieder contributed to this report.


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Michael Beckel

Michael Beckel reported for the Center for Public Integrity from 2012 to 2017.