As BNA reports, another court has held that a “municipal cap on acceptance of contributions by any ‘person’ that makes independent expenditures supporting or opposing a political candidate violates the First Amendment’s Free Speech Clause.” The Ninth Circuit of Appeals issued the ruling as applied to a local chamber of commerce’s political action committee in Long Beach Area Chamber of Commerce v. Long Beach, Cal., 9th Cir., No. 07-55691, 4/30/10).
The Ninth Circuit upheld the theory already validated by the D.C. and 4th circuits in the Leake and SpeechNow.org cases, respectively.
Richard Briffault, a professor at Columbia Law School, New York, told BNA in an e-mail May 7 that the U.S. Supreme Court has held since Buckley v. Valeo, 424 U.S. 1 (1976), and reiterated in Citizens United, that “independent expenditures do not raise a danger of corruption and thus cannot be limited.” What Long Beach is saying, “consistent with several recent circuit cases” including SpeechNow and N.C. Right to Life Inc. v. Leake, 525 F.3d 274, 76 U.S.L.W. 1679 (4th Cir. 2008), “is that contributions to a committee that makes only independent expenditures (and does not make contributions to candidates or parties) cannot be limited because[,] since the expenditures raise no danger of corruption[,] neither do the contributions to the committee making the expenditures,” Briffault said. Limits on contributions to PACs that contribute to candidates and, presumably, political parties continue to be justifiable by the anti-corruption concern, he said.
This decision, like SpeechNow, likely “will make it easier for IECs to amass very large war chests to support independent expenditure campaigns supporting or opposing candidates—at least, it removes any legal impediments to IECs soliciting and collecting very large individual or organization donations,” Briffault said.
The case “reflects the logic, seen in Citizens United and other cases, which draws a very sharp distinction between contributions to candidates, which can be treated as potentially corrupting, and independent spending in support of or opposition to a candidate, which is treated as not presenting a corruption,” Briffault said.
Indeed, we and IJ have said as much ourselves.