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Sunday, May 19, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Libertarians Decry Donation Restrictions

(CN) - The Libertarian Party is challenging the Federal Election Commission's restrictions on the money it received from a deceased donor.

Joseph Shaber bequeathed $235,575 to the Libertarian National Committee, which complained Monday in District of Columbia Federal Court that it could not access the money without restrictions.

The committee claimed that it could only use $33,400 per year for general party purposes due to the federal government's limits on annual contributions.

"Conversely, the government would allow the party to accept as much as $100,200 per year from Shaber's bequest provided it was used for each of three government-approved purposes: a national convention, attorneys or a headquarters building," the committee's lawsuit states. "In other words, the government imposes a content-based restriction on a national party's speech: a party can only spend $33,400 of a donor's money on general political speech, but nearly ten times that amount on government-favored purposes."

These restrictions, the party argues, are an unconstitutional restriction of free speech.

The Libertarian Party claims to have 399,302 registered voters in the 27 states in which voters can register as Libertarians.

The 45-year-old party noted in its lawsuit that it has yet to elect a federal officeholder. It "is forced to spend the bulk of its resources securing access to the ballot" rather than spending money on campaigning, according to the complaint.

"Donors, voters and prospective political candidates who might be attracted to the party's ideology are nonetheless dissuaded from supporting the party by its lack of resources," the 11-page lawsuit states.

For that reason, the party claims that it needs more funding for general purposes than for conventions, attorneys or buildings.

The committee asked the federal court for an injunction to prevent the Federal Election Commission (FEC) from enforcing the donation limit on Shaber's bequest.

The Libertarian National Committee is represented by Alan Gura of the Alexandria, Va.-based law firm Gura & Possessky.

Gura did not have comment by press time. The FEC declined to comment on the lawsuit.

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