Supreme Court Denies Cert in Party Financing Case


Today, the U.S. Supreme Court denied the petition for certiorari in Cao v. FEC, a key case concerning the federal party coordinated spending limits.  The high Court’s order leaves standing the decision of the en banc Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals that strongly affirmed the constitutionality of these important restrictions.

“This morning the Supreme Court deferred to precedent and declined to hear this attack on the longstanding limits on party coordinated spending,” said attorney Tara Malloy of the Campaign Legal Center.  “Plaintiffs’ challenge would have blown huge loopholes in the federal campaign finance laws and enabled large-scale circumvention of the individual contribution limits.”

The case was one of two challenges to campaign finance laws filed shortly after the 2008 federal elections by the RNC.  The Cao case challenged the federal limits on how much money the parties could spend in direct coordination with their candidates, as well as the $5,000 political committee contribution limit as applied to party coordinated spending.  The party coordinated spending limits had been upheld by the Supreme Court in its 2001 decision in FEC v. Colorado Republican Fed. Campaign Committee, and thus the plaintiffs were effectively requesting that the high Court overrule one of its past decisions.

“We are pleased that the Supreme Court turned away this challenge and that its prior decisions in campaign finance cases remain the law of the land,” added Ms. Malloy.  “Today, the challenged law survived, but there remains a lengthy list of challenges making their way through the courts hoping for a sympathetic audience from the Supreme Court under Chief Justice John Roberts.”

In June 2010, the Supreme Court summarily affirmed the lower court decision in the companion case to Cao – RNC v. FEC – which had upheld the McCain-Feingold soft money limits on contributions to political party committees.  Today’s decision thus marks the second time the Supreme Court has declined to hear cases by those who seek to loosen the federal party financing restrictions.

The Legal Center, along with Democracy 21, filed an amici brief with the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals on April 19, 2010 to defend the constitutionality of the party coordinated spending limits.  To read the brief, click here.