Holmes v. FEC

Status
Closed
Updated

At a Glance

The Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) sets individual contribution limits to federal candidates at $2,700 per election — with primaries, general elections, runoffs and special elections each counted separately.

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The Latest

On Wednesday, the full panel of judges at the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals will hear oral argument in Holmes v. FEC. This is a seemingly minor case that could have major implications for campaign finance regulation.  

A First Amendment Challenge to Campaign Contribution Limits

Federal law currently limits how much money an individual can donate...

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About this Case

About

The Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) sets individual contribution limits to federal candidates at $2,700 per election — with primaries, general elections, runoffs and special elections each counted separately.

Maintaining contribution limits are critical to ensuring that everyone plays by the same common-sense rules. Contribution limits help keep candidates focused on engaging average voters, rather than doing the bidding of just a handful of wealthy donors.

The plaintiffs in this case sought to donate two times the base limit in the 2014 general election, arguing that, since they did not donate anything in the primary, they should be able to double their contribution in the general. Because the base limits total $5,400 when the primary and general election limits are added together, the plaintiffs claim that a $5,400 contribution cannot corrupt candidates who make it into the general election. The plaintiffs assert that “bifurcating” these limits does not serve an anti-corruption (or other) purpose that is not already served by having a $5,400 total base limit.

The Supreme Court has repeatedly counseled that, since base limits on individual contributions are constitutional, courts must defer to legislative judgments (in this case Congressional judgments) regarding the dollar amounts of those limits. The same principle applies to other details about how those limits are structured. The plaintiffs in this case seek to chip away at that deference, and to thereby heighten the scrutiny placed on every aspect of campaign finance laws. The case will be heard by the full panel of the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. The Campaign Legal Center and Democracy 21 have filed friend-of-the-court briefs supporting the Federal Election Commission.Read our blog.UpdateOn November 28, 2017, the DC Circuit issued an opinion rejecting hte challenge to FECA's contribution limits. The opinion cites the arguments laid out in CLC's friend-of-the-court brief.

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