Political party committees should have same rights as PACs, new suits against FEC argue

By David Yates | May 27, 2014

WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline) - In a fresh round of lawsuits against the Federal Election Commission, the Republican National Committee and Libertarian National Congressional Committee are arguing that they too should enjoy the same rights as political action committees when it comes to independent expenditures.

On Wednesday the LNCC, joined by the Libertarian Party of Indiana and California businessman Chris Rufer, filed suit against the FEC in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

Two days later, the RNC, along with the Republican Party of Louisiana, also filed suit in the D.C. federal court.

The LNCC's lawsuit, which comes only a month after the Supreme Court struck down overall campaign contribution limits in case of McCutcheon v. FEC, builds off the high court's 2010 ruling on Citizens United v. FEC, in which justices opined corporations and unions could make unlimited independent expenditures that are not coordinated with a campaign.

"The Supreme Court has held that 'independent expenditures made in connection with a federal election - such as funds spent on advertisements - are pure speech at the heart of the First Amendment, entitled to maximum constitutional protection,'" the LNCC's complaint states.

"Congress generally may not limit a person's or other entity's independent expenditures, because they do not create a risk of actual or apparent quid pro quo corruption."

In the aforementioned Supreme Court cases, justices cited corruption as a non-issue.

"The Supreme Court has already held that a political party, just like any other group, not only is capable of making expenditures regarding federal elections that are truly independent from the candidates it nominates, but is entitled to do so without limit," the LNCC's complaint states.

"Thus, a political party committee should have the same fundamental constitutional right as a PAC to establish a separate, segregated 'independent expenditure' - only account, which may accept unlimited contributions, for the sole purpose of funding its pure, independent speech about federal candidates, elections, and other political issues."

Both lawsuits challenge the 2002 Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, which puts a ban on unrestricted soft money donations (money raised outside the limits and prohibitions of federal campaign finance law) made directly to political parties.

This is not the first time the act has been challenged.

In the 2003 case McConnell v. Federal Election Commission, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act.

U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., brought the challenge, arguing the act was an unconstitutional infringement on First Amendment rights.

The more current complaints seek a judgment that non-federal-funds prohibitions are unconstitutional.

Reach David Yates at elections@legalnewsline.com.

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