Court of Appeals Upholds Campaign Contribution Limits

WASHINGTON – Today, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit turned back a legal challenge brought by the Libertarian National Committee (LNC) to multiple federal limits on contributions to political parties. Campaign Legal Center (CLC) and Democracy 21 filed a friend-of-the-court brief on Oct. 12, 2018 to defend these limits.

The LNC challenged the application of the federal contribution limits to money left to the LNC by a deceased donor, arguing that such limits are only constitutional as applied to individuals who give with corruptive intent – basically, an intent to violate bribery laws. The LNC also argued that a 2014 law that raised the limits on contributions given to parties for certain designated purposes created an unconstitutional “content based” restriction on speech. Judge Tatel, writing for the majority, rejected all of the LNC’s arguments, which – if successful – would have undermined the viability of contribution limits nationwide.

“Today’s decision reaffirms that contribution limits are a vital preventative measure to protect voters against the worst forms of political corruption,” said Tara Malloy, senior director at CLC. “Even if, as Judge Tatel writes, the courts through some magical power could ferret out the innocent contributions from the nefarious, an appearance of corruption would remain. That’s why this decision is so important: unregulated contributions could inflict almost as much harm on public faith in the integrity of our elections as a clear exchange of money for favors.”

“The DC Circuit correctly rejected the Libertarian Party’s challenge to the contribution limits that apply to national party committees,” said Donald Simon, general counsel to Democracy 21. “For more than 40 years dating back to Buckley v. Valeo, the Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality of contribution limits and that law is now firmly established. While we opposed Congress’s 2014 decision to raise contribution limits for certain special purpose funds set up by the parties, that congressional policy mistake did not undermine the constitutionality of the basic limit on party contributions that was challenged by the Libertarian Party. The D.C. Circuit got the analysis right.”

Learn more about the case Libertarian National Committee v. FEC.