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  • FEC Record: Advisory opinions

Appeals court to consider contribution limit challenges in Libertarian National Committee v. FEC (Case 1:16-cv-00121-BAH)

July 9, 2018

On June 29, 2018, the United States District Court for the District of Columbia issued a memorandum opinion in Libertarian National Committee v. FEC. The court certified to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit one facial and two as-applied constitutional challenges to the limits on contributions by an individual to national party committees.

Background

The Libertarian National Committee (LNC) argues that the limits on contributions to national party committees cannot be constitutionally applied to a bequest from Joseph Shaber under the First Amendment, and that the higher limits on special segregated accounts for buildings, conventions, and legal expenses effectively impose a content-based restriction on a national party's speech.

Analysis

Under the Federal Election Campaign Act, challenges to the constitutionality of the statute’s provisions begin in the appropriate district court. Under the special judicial review provision at 52 U.S.C. § 30110, he role of the district court is to certify all questions of constitutionality to the United States court of appeals for the appropriate circuit. The district court does not certify questions that are “wholly insubstantial,” “obviously frivolous,” and “obviously without merit,” which means that satisfying the standard for certification is a “low bar.” The district court’s discretion is not limited to certifying or dismissing a question, but also permits the court to reformulate a proposed question prior to certification. In this case, the district court reformulated aspects of the LNC’s proposed questions, certifying the following to the Court of Appeals: 

  1. Does imposing annual contribution limits against the bequest of Joseph Shaber violate the First Amendment rights of the Libertarian National Committee?
  2. Do 52 U.S.C. §§ 30116(a)(1)(B), (a)(9), and 30125(a)(1), on their face, violate the First Amendment rights of the Libertarian National Committee by restricting the purposes for which the Committee may spend its contributions above § 30116(a)(1)(B)’s general purpose contribution limit to those specialized purposes enumerated in §30116(a)(9)?
  3. Do 52 U.S.C. §§ 30116(a)(1)(B), (a)(9), and 30125(a)(1) violate the First Amendment rights of the Libertarian National Committee by restricting the purposes for which the Committee may spend that portion of the bequest of Joseph Shaber that exceeds § 30116(a)(1)(B)’s general purpose contribution limit to those specialized purposes enumerated in § 30116(a)(9)?

Citations

52 U.S.C. § 30110
Judicial review

52 U.S.C. § 30116(a)(1)(B)
Limits on contributions to a national party

52 U.S.C. § 30116(a)(9)
Limits on contributions to certain national party accounts

52 U.S.C. § 30125(a)(1)
Prohibition on soft money for national parties

Resources
  • Author 
    • Christopher Berg
    • Communications Specialist