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Democrats v. Federal Election Commission

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Alexandria Division

February 27, 2015

STOP RECKLESS ECONOMIC INSTABILITY CAUSED BY DEMOCRATS, el al., Plaintiffs,
v.
FEDERAL ELECTION COMMISSION, Defendant

Page 467

For Stop Reckless Economic Instability Caused By Democrats, (" Stop Reid" ), Niger Innis, Niger Innis for Congress, Tea Party Leadership Fund, Alexandria Republican City Committee, Plaintiffs: Dan Backer, LEAD ATTORNEY, DB Capitol Strategies PLLC, Alexandria, VA; Michael Thomas Morley, LEAD ATTORNEY, Coolidge-Reagan Foundation, Washington, DC.

For Federal Election Commission, Defendant: Esther Dvorah Gyory, Federal Election Commission, Washington, DC.

For American Future PAC, Intervenor Plaintiff: Michael Thomas Morley, LEAD ATTORNEY, Coolidge-Reagan Foundation, Washington, DC; Dan Backer, DB Capitol Strategies PLLC, Alexandria, VA.

Page 468

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Anthony J. Trenga, United States District Judge.

Presently pending are cross-motions for summary judgment with respect to plaintiffs' constitutional challenges to certain statutory contribution limits under the Federal Election Campaign Act (" FECA" ) [Doc. Nos. 56 and 57]. Specifically, plaintiffs contend that (1) the six-month registration period, 2 U.S.C. § 441a(a)(4), violates the First Amendment as applied to plaintiff Stop Reckless Economic Instability Caused By Democrats (" Stop PAC" ); (2) the limit on contributions from persons to candidates, § 441a(a)(1)(A), violates the Fifth Amendment as applied to Stop PAC; and (3) FECA's annual limits on contributions from multicandidate non-connected political committees (" PACs" ), like the Tea Party Leadership Fund (the " Fund" ), to national party committees, § 441a(a)(2)(B) ($15,000), and to state party committees, § 441a(a)(2)(C) ($5,000) violate the Fifth Amendment. Plaintiffs seek a declaration that these provisions are unconstitutional and also a permanent injunction barring defendant Federal Election Committee (" FEC" ) from enforcing them against plaintiffs and similarly situated groups. For the reasons stated herein, the Court will assume, without deciding, that plaintiffs have standing to raise their claims and that their claims are not moot, but concludes that the FECA's challenged limitations on campaign contributions are constitutional. Summary judgment will therefore be granted in favor of defendant FEC.

BACKGROUND

On April 14, 2014, the original plaintiffs filed a complaint against defendant FEC [Doc. No. 1], challenging the constitutionality of certain FECA contribution limits.[1] More specifically, plaintiffs Stop PAC, the

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Fund, and the Alexandria Republican City Committee (" ARCC" ) and intervenor American Future PAC (" American Future" ) (referred to collectively as " plaintiffs" ) allege that FECA, as amended by the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (" BRCA" ), 52 U.S.C. § § 30101-46 (formerly 2 U.S.C. § § 431-57), unconstitutionally and discriminatorily places different contribution limits on materially indistinguishable political committees based on whether a committee has been in existence for six months. FECA requires that newly registered PACs wishing to contribute to candidates comply with a $2,600 limit for six months before earning an increased $5,000 limit reserved for multicandidate PACs. In that regard, Stop PAC and American Future argue that (1) the $2,600 limit on contributions from persons (or new PACs) to candidates, 2 U.S.C. § 441a(a)(1)(A), violates the equal protection component of the Fifth Amendment as applied to Stop PAC (Count I); [2] and (2) the six-month registration and waiting period for designation as a " multicandidate political committee," 2 U.S.C. § 441a(a)(4), violates the First Amendment as applied to Stop PAC (Count II).[3] In addition, FECA sets a higher limit for contributions made by persons, as opposed to those made by multicandidate PACs, to party committees.[4] In plaintiffs' third claim, ARCC and the Fund argue that FECA's annual limits on contributions made by multicandidate PACs to national party committees under 2 U.S.C. § 441a(a)(2)(B) ($15,000) and to state party committees under § 441a(a)(2)(C) ($5,000) violate the equal protection component of the Fifth Amendment (Count III).

FACTS[5]

Plaintiff Stop PAC is a hybrid non-connected political committee that registered

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with the FEC on March 11, 2014. Stop PAC is registered and based in Virginia. Of its contributors, 78 contributors reside in Nevada, and its founder and chairman, Greg Campbell, also resides there. As of April 10, 2014, Stop PAC had over 150 contributors and had contributed to five candidates for federal office. Section 441a(a)(1)(A) of FECA limited Stop PAC's contributions to each federal candidate to $2,600 per election until September 11, 2014, when Stop PAC became a multicandidate PAC and was permitted to contribute $5,000.

Former plaintiff Niger Innis was a candidate in the June 10, 2014 primary election for the Republican Party nomination for the U.S. House of Representatives in Nevada (" Nevada Primary" ). As of April 10, 2014, Stop PAC had contributed $2,600 to Niger Innis for the Nevada Primary. Stop PAC wished to contribute an additional $2,400 to Innis in connection with the Nevada Primary, but section 441a(a)(1)(A) prohibited it from doing so because Stop PAC had not been registered with the FEC for more than six months. The Nevada Primary occurred before Stop PAC's six-month waiting period expired.

On June 16, 2014, Stop PAC contributed the statutory maximum of $2,600 to Dan Sullivan, a candidate for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate in Alaska's August 19, 2014 primary election (" Alaska Primary" ). Stop PAC wished to contribute an additional $2,400 to Sullivan in connection with the Alaska Primary, but section 441a(a)(1)(A) prohibited it from doing so because it had not been registered for more than six months before the Alaska Primary. The Alaska Primary occurred before Stop PAC's six-month waiting period expired. On July 7, 2014, Stop PAC contributed $2,600 to Congressman Joe Heck in connection with his candidacy in the 2014 general election. At that time, Stop PAC had an additional $1,800 that it wished to contribute immediately to Heck, but could not until its six-month waiting period expired on September 11, 2014. Thereafter, on October 3, 2014, after acquiring multicandidate status, Stop PAC contributed an additional $1,800 to Heck for the November 2014 general election.

Intervenor American Future is a non-connected political committee that registered with the FEC on August 11, 2014, and qualified as a multicandidate PAC on February 11, 2015. Its purpose is to " stand for veterans who have secured our freedom." By August 22, 2014, American Future had raised $5,473 from 54 contributors, $5,000 of which was received on August 18, 2014 from a single donor; 41 of those contributions were for five dollars, and three were for one dollar. On August 19, 2014, American Future contributed $2,600 to Tom Cotton's general election campaign for U.S. Senate, and then contributed $100 each to four other candidates. American Future wished to contribute an additional $2,000 to Cotton in connection with the 2014 general election, but section 441a(a)(1)(A) prevented it from doing so because it had not been registered with the FEC for six months before the November 2014 general election. American Future made no contribution to any candidate after August 25,2014. At the time of its intervention, American Future also argued that it wished to contribute funds in excess of $2,600 to Cotton immediately, but, due to the six-month waiting period, could not unless and until Cotton filed paperwork concerning the 2016 primary ...


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