On March 17, 2011, the Libertarian National Committee, Inc. (LNC) filed suit against the Commission in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The LNC is seeking to permanently enjoin the application of the Federal Election Campaign Act’s (the Act) contribution limits to the solicitation and receipt of contributions made by bequest from a deceased person’s estate. The LNC argues that the ban on national party committees soliciting or receiving any funds not subject to the limitations, prohibitions and reporting requirements of the Act (2 U.S.C. § 441i) cannot be constitutionally applied to decedents’ bequests.
The LNC is the national committee of the Libertarian Party of the United States, which is headquartered in Washington, DC. Its purpose is “to field national Presidential tickets, to support its state party affiliates in running candidates for public office, and to conduct other political activities in furtherance of a libertarian public policy agenda in the United States.”
In April 2007, Raymond Groves Burrington of Knox County, Tennessee, died, and, in his last will and testament, bequeathed $217,734 to the Libertarian Party. As indexed for inflation according to 2 U.S.C. § 441a(c), the current annual limit for an individual contribution to a national party committee is $30,800. In previous Advisory Opinions, the Commission has concluded that contributions made by bequest from a deceased person’s estate are subject to the Act’s contribution limits. AOs 2004-02, 1999-14. As a result, the Plaintiff did not accept the entire bequest at once, but rather accepted annual contributions from the Burrington Estate of $28,500 in 2007 and 2008, the maximum contribution permissible at the time. The remaining balance of $160,734 was placed into an escrow account. The escrow account, established under agreement with the Burrington Estate and the LNC, provides that the LNC must withdraw annually the maximum amount permitted by the individual contribution limits.
The Plaintiff argues that applying the annual contribution limits and the bar on national party committees’ soliciting and receiving funds not subject to the Act to decedents’ bequests violates the First Amendment speech and associational rights of the LNC and its supporters. The suit asserts that limiting contributions from decedents’ bequests does not serve any valid governmental interest. The Plaintiff seeks to implement a planned giving program to solicit bequests exceeding the contribution limits.
Because the LNC alleges that it is challenging the constitutionality of portions of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (BCRA), the Plaintiff requests a three-judge court to hear the case. Section 403 of BCRA allows for a three-judge court to hear a case brought for declaratory or injunctive relief to challenge the constitutionality of any provision or amendment of BCRA. The full text of the court complaint is available at: http://www.fec.gov/law/litigation/lnc_lnc_complaint.pdf.
U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia: Case 1:11-cv-00562-RLW (filed March 17, 2011).