On May 21, 2014, Chris Rufer, along with one state committee and one national committee of the Libertarian Party, filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to challenge the constitutionality of laws and Commission regulations that prevent party committees from raising and spending funds outside the federal source and amount limitations to finance independent expenditures. The plaintiffs seek injunctive relief and a declaratory judgment that such restrictions violate the First Amendment.
Mr. Rufer is a California resident who would like to help party committees finance independent expenditures by contributing more than the annual federal limits of $10,000 to state and local party committees and $32,400 to national party committees. 2 U.S.C. § 441a(a)(1)(B) and (D). The Libertarian Party of Indiana and the Libertarian National Congressional Committee—both of whom would receive Mr. Rufer’s large contributions—join him as plaintiffs.
The Federal Election Campaign Act (the Act), as amended by the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, prohibits party committees from soliciting, accepting or spending funds for federal election-related purposes that are not raised in compliance with the Act. 2 U.S.C. § 441i(b)(1) and (c). In fact, national party committees may not raise or spend any funds that do not comply with the Act’s limits and prohibitions. 2 U.S.C. § 441i(a).
A series of recent court decisions have concluded that the Act’s contribution limits and its ban on corporate and union expenditures cannot constitutionally be applied to funds nonconnected PACs raise and spend solely for independent expenditures. Based on these decisions, some nonconnected PACs have established separate bank accounts to finance independent expenditures using contributions that may exceed the Act’s limits and come from corporations and unions. The plaintiffs argue that the First Amendment requires that party committees be permitted to establish such accounts.
The plaintiffs ask the court to grant preliminary and permanent injunctions to prohibit the FEC from enforcing the challenged provisions, and seek declaratory judgment that 2 U.S.C. §§ 441(a)(1)(B), (D) and 441i(a)-(c) are unconstitutional as applied to separate independent expenditure accounts created by party committees.