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Ongoing Litigation

Tea Party Leadership Fund, et al. v. FEC

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Tea Party Leadership Fund, et al. v. FEC
Case Summary

On October 17, 2012, Tea Party Leadership Fund (“TPLF”) and other plaintiffs filed suit against the Commission in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia challenging the Federal Election Campaign Act’s (the Act) six-month registration period for multicandidate committee status. Among other things, the plaintiffs contend that the $2,500 per candidate, per election limit for committees during this period infringes upon their First Amendment rights.

Background

Under the Act and Commission regulations a multicandidate committee is one that has been registered for at least six months, has received contributions from more than 50 persons and has made contributions to at least five candidates for federal office. 2 U.S.C. §441a(a)(4); 11 CFR 100.5(e)(3). Multicandidate committees may contribute up to $5,000 per election to a federal candidate, while committees that do not meet the three criteria may contribute only $2,500 per election, under the current limits.

TPLF is a nonconnected “hybrid PAC” that has made contributions to at least five federal candidates and has received contributions from more than 50 donors, but registered with the Commission on May 9, 2012, just over five months before filing suit. The committee has already contributed $2,500 each to the campaigns of House Candidate Sean Bielat and Senate Candidate John Raese, who are also plaintiffs in the case, and would like to give another $2,500 to each of their campaigns.

In AO 2012-32, the Commission concluded TPLF had not met the six-month registration requirement for multicandidate status and thus could not make contributions to any candidate aggregating more than $2,500 per election. The Commission also instructed the candidates, Mr. Bielat and Mr. Raese, that it would be illegal to knowingly accept contributions from TPLF in excess of that limit.

Challenge

The plaintiffs’ suit argues that the six-month registration period to become a “multicandidate political committee” is unnecessary, and TPLF should be permitted contribute an additional $2,500 to each candidate. The plaintiffs contend that there would be no corrupting influence created by allowing the group to contribute more funds immediately. TPFL further maintains that the Act abridges its freedom of speech and association guaranteed under the First Amendment. The plaintiffs seek injunctive relief and a declaratory judgment that the multicandidate provisions are unconstitutional.

Source: FEC Record -- November 2012


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