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On May 23, 2014, a group of Republican party committees and committee chairmen filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to challenge the constitutionality of laws that prevent them from raising and spending funds outside the federal source and amount limitations to finance independent expenditures. The plaintiffs seek injunctive relief and a declaratory judgment that such restrictions violate the First Amendment.
The Republican National Committee (RNC) and its chairman, and the Republican Party of Louisiana (LAGOP) and its chairman, would like to solicit and receive unlimited contributions to a separate account used solely to fund independent expenditures. The separate account would accept contributions not only from individuals, but also from corporations and unions. The Republican Executive Committees of Jefferson and Orleans Parishes, as well as LAGOP, would like to use existing funds raised outside the federal restrictions to pay for independent federal election activity.
The Federal Election Campaign Act (the Act), as amended by the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA), prohibits party committees from soliciting, accepting or spending funds for federal election-related purposes that are not raised in compliance with the Act. 2 U.S.C. §441i(b)(1) and (c). In fact, national party committees may not raise or spend any funds that do not comply with the Act’s limits and prohibitions. 2 U.S.C. §441i(a). Currently, donors may contribute up to $10,000 per year to state and local party committees and up to $32,400 to national party committees. 2 U.S.C. §441a(a)(1)(B) and (D). Corporations and unions are prohibited from making contributions in connection with federal elections. 2 U.S.C §441b(a).
A series of
recent court decisions have concluded that the Act’s contribution limits and
its ban on corporate and union expenditures cannot constitutionally be applied
to funds nonconnected PACs raise and spend solely for independent expenditures.
Based on these decisions, some nonconnected PACs have established separate bank
accounts to finance independent expenditures using contributions that may exceed
the Act’s limits and come from corporations and unions. The plaintiffs argue
that the First Amendment requires that party committees be permitted to
establish such accounts.
The plaintiffs ask the court to grant injunctions to prohibit the FEC from enforcing the challenged provisions. They also seek a declaratory judgment that 2 U.S.C. §§441(a)(1)(B), (D) and 441i(a)-(c) are unconstitutional as applied to separate independent expenditure accounts created by any party committees, and that the prohibitions on state and local parties using funds raised outside federal limits to finance independent federal election activity are also unconstitutional.
Rufer, et al. v. FEC (Rufer) and RNC, et al. v. FEC (RNC) were both dismissed after the parties filed dismissal agreements with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
On November 19, 2014, the plaintiffs in RNC filed a Stipulation Dismissing Republican Plaintiffs with the court of appeals. On December 2, 2014, the plaintiffs in Rufer filed both a Stipulation of Dismissal with the district court and a Joint Dismissal Agreement with the court of appeals. On December 3, 2014, the plaintiffs in RNC filed a Stipulation Dismissing Plaintiffs and Action with the district court. In all filings, the FEC noted that by agreeing to the dismissal, the FEC does not waive any rights or arguments that may apply in future cases. On December 10, 2014, the court of appeals issued an order dismissing both cases.