(CN) — The Federal Election Commission’s rules limiting how much a non-profit can spend campaigning in federal elections are unconstitutional and limit free speech, the D.C. Circuit ruled.
The Washington, D.C.-based panel sided with Emily’s List, a non-profit group that backs female Democrats who support abortion rights. The group challenged as unconstitutional the FEC’s 2005 rules restricting how non-profits can spend and raise money to advance their causes.
“The First Amendment … protects the right of individual citizens to spend unlimited amounts to express their views about policy issues and candidates for public office,” the ruling said, adding that it also “safeguards the right of citizens to band together and pool their resources as an unincorporated group or nonprofit organization in order to express their views about policy issues and candidates for public office.”
In response to concerns about “soft money” contributions used to fund attack-ads during the 2004 election, the FEC passed rules requiring that nonprofits use “hard money” in federal campaigns.
It also limited individuals to a $5,000 annual donation to any nonprofit using the money to support the election or defeat of a federal candidate.