Politics

10.08.13

Meet Shaun McCutcheon, the Republican Activist Trying to Make History at the Supreme Court

Shaun McCutcheon is trying to upturn America’s campaign finance system. Ben Jacobs on the man at the heart of the Supreme Court battle.

Shaun McCutcheon is about to become a political celebrity.

McCutcheon is the plaintiff in a case of McCutcheon v. FEC which will be heard by the Supreme Court on Tuesday. In this case, the Court will hear the latest significant challenge to campaign finance laws in an attempt to invalidate aggregate campaign finance limits, which limit the total political contributions that a person can make in a given two-year period. In the most recent period of 2011-2012, an individual could give no more than $46,200 to all federal candidates and another $70,800 to federal political action committees and political party committees. If the Court rules in McCutcheon’s favor, it would further undermine American campaign finance law, which has already been gravely weakened by the Court’s holding in Citizens United. While the implications of this ruling are huge, little attention has been paid to McCutcheon himself.

He is a dedicated Republican from suburban Birmingham, Alabama who is the CEO of Coalmont Electrical Development, an engineering firm that specializes in the mining industry.  According to Bill Armistead, the chairman of the Alabama Republican Party, McCutcheon is a sincere and dedicated Republican activist.  Armistead told The Daily Beast that Shaun is “a great guy . . . who really loves supporting conservative candidates, getting conservatives elected to office.” He’s so dedicated that Armistead couldn’t recall ever discussing “extracurricular activities” including a subject as important in his home state as the Alabama-Auburn rivalry.

No matter how the Court decides, McCutcheon has already secured a certain share of immortality.

In a Sunday editorial for Politico, McCutcheon described why he filed his suit and his outrage over aggregate limits and that, in his words: “Somehow, I can give the individual limit, now $2,600, to 17 candidates without corrupting the system. But as soon as I give that same amount to an 18th candidate, our democracy is suddenly at risk.” But there is a little more to the story than that and McCutcheon is more than a simple Alabama party activist. According to Huffington Post, McCutcheon first broached the idea of his lawsuit at the 2012 Conservative Political Action Conference. He has since partnered with the RNC in his lawsuit and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has joined in the suit as an outside party and will have his own set of lawyers arguing on his behalf before the Court.

But, no matter how the Court decides, McCutcheon has already secured a certain share of immortality. After all, win, lose or draw, law students will be reading the name of this Alabama electrical engineer for centuries to come.