Bloomberg News: Libertarian Challenge to Contribution Limits Advances

bloomberg-bnaFrom Bloomberg News on January 5:

“A constitutional challenge to restrictions on campaign contributions to a political party has been given a go-ahead by a federal judge in Washington, D.C. ( Libertarian Nat’l Comm. v. Federal Election Commission, D.D.C., No. 16-cv-121, memorandum opinion 1/3/17).The Libertarian Party’s national committee challenged restrictions imposed by Congress in 2014 when it passed a law sharply increasing the amount of money a single contributor can give to a party but limiting the uses of that increased money. The controversial 2014 law — tacked onto an appropriations bill funding the federal government — boosted the total contribution a party committee can receive to more than $300,000 annually but required that most of the money be used to pay only for three purposes: party conventions, legal costs and party headquarters.

“The Libertarian National Committee (LNC) challenged these restrictions, which are enforced by the Federal Election Commission, in a lawsuit filed in January 2016. The Jan. 3 ruling by Beryl Howell, chief judge of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, allows the case to be heard on the merits by the federal appeals court in Washington under special procedures for considering campaign finance challenges.

“Howell’s ruling rejected a motion to dismiss the case filed by FEC lawyers. The judge said that the LNC had legal standing to challenge restrictions on how it could spend a large contribution [bequeathed] by a party supporter who died in 2014. The supporter, Joseph Shaber, left the party committee $235,575.

“The FEC argued that the LNC could accept the full amount and so had no reason to pursue a lawsuit. The party committee argued, however, that much of the money would be restricted to specific purposes not directly related to supporting Libertarian candidates.

“The LNC said that the restrictions on its use of contributions violated the First Amendment. Judge Howell said that the First Amendment was implicated and the issue should be decided by the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, sitting en banc.”

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