Contribution Limits Survive Party Attack
(CN) - Political parties cannot pick up where political action committees left off in curbing contribution limits, a federal judge ruled, finding that an injunction "would upset the entire federal campaign finance framework."
Citing the short time until the next federal election and, U.S. District Judge Christopher Cooper said Tuesday that awarding the "as yet untested legal theory" preliminary relief "would be imprudent, to say the least, and certainly not in the public interest."
The ruling comes three months after Republican and Libertarian party committees filed separate lawsuits in Washington, D.C, over campaign-finance regulations that they said prevent them from establishing non-contribution accounts to soak up unlimited donations used to make "independent expenditures."
While Congress has placed caps on individual donations to parties and candidates for nearly 40 years, recent Supreme Court decisions have removed limits to political action committees that do not coordinate expenditures with candidates or parties.
The now-consolidated lawsuits by the Republican and Libertarian committees seek to remove the distinction between a PAC's "non-coordinated expenditures" and their own.
"What's good for the PAC geese, they argue, should be good for the party ganders," Cooper summarized.
In declining to grant a preliminary injunction the Libertarian challengers, Cooper noted that their position is "in direct tension with longstanding Supreme Court precedent upholding base contribution limits to political parties."
"A finding that the challenge would likely succeed on its merits would require the court to overlook this precedent, which it declines to do," the 15-page opinion states.
Even the McCutcheon decision , which recently invalidated aggregate limits that kept wealthy individuals from infusing millions of dollars into their political parties, left base contribution limits intact, Cooper noted.
The dissenting justices in McCutcheon lamented that even the removal of aggregate limits "eviscerates our nation's campaign finance laws, leaving a remnant incapable of dealing with the grave problems of democratic legitimacy that those laws were intended to resolve."
An en banc panel of the D.C. Circuit should review the Libertarians' constitutional question, the judge added..
Lawyers for the Republican and Libertarian plaintiffs did not immediately respond to a request for comment, and the FEC declined to comment.