For Release: May 1, 2014 Contact: Joe Trotter Phone: 210-352-0055 (Cell)
Alexandria, Va. — A First Amendment advocacy group today urged the mayor, Attorney General, and other District of Columbia officials to repeal the District’s aggregate campaign contribution limit law and halt its enforcement because the law is likely unconstitutional following the Supreme Court’s ruling early last month in the case McCutcheon v. FEC.
A letter sent by David Keating, President of the Center for Competitive Politics (CCP), urges district officials “to take quick action to respond to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in McCutcheon v. FEC, in order to ensure that D.C. does not continue to violate its citizens’ First Amendment rights.” The letter says the District of Columbia has a law that is “essentially identical” to the federal law that was declared unconstitutional. “To ensure compliance with the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, the District of Columbia should repeal [its law] as soon as possible. Until the law is repealed or otherwise amended in order to comply with the Court’s ruling, we urge the Attorney General and other district officials who have responsibility to enforce the district’s campaign finance laws to immediately announce that this law will no longer be enforced.”
In McCutcheon, the Court ruled that citizens could not be limited in how much they spend overall on contributions to political candidates, parties, and PACs in each election cycle. The Court did not strike down limits on donations to any single candidate, but rather the aggregate limit on donations to all candidates. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the Court, “[t]he Government may no more restrict how many candidates or causes a donor may support than it may tell a newspaper how many candidates it may endorse.”
The letter warns that “[i]f the District of Columbia fails to either amend or repeal this statute to conform to the Court’s ruling, it risks a lawsuit. CCP has provided pro bono representation in similar situations, and would strongly consider doing so here as well. Such legal action would cost the district money defending the case, and would distract the Attorney General’s office from other important legal work. Additionally, if the district chooses to defend the law in court, it is probable that the district will have to pay substantial legal fees to successful plaintiffs.”
Two states, Massachusetts and Maryland, have already announced that they will no longer enforce their aggregate limits. The Rhode Island State Board of Elections announced that it would support legislation that would repeal the state’s aggregate limit provision, and some or all of Minnesota and Wisconsin’s provisions are currently being challenged in court.
Similar letters will be sent to officials in as many as 18 other states outlining why each jurisdiction’s laws require immediate revision. A copy of CCP’s letter to Mayor Vincent C. Gray is available here. Identical letters were sent to Attorney General Irvin B. Nathan, City Council Chairman Phil Mendelson, Council Committee on Government Operations Chairman Kenyan McDuffie, and Director of the District of Columbia Office of Campaign Finance Cecily E. Collier-Montgomery.
About the Center for Competitive Politics
The Center for Competitive Politics is one of the nation’s premier centers of public interest litigation. It is the only public interest law firm with in-house litigation staff solely focused on the defense of First Amendment rights to free political speech, assembly and petition. CCP was co-counsel in SpeechNow.org v. Federal Election Commission, which held that there can be no limits on contributions to independent expenditure committees. This case created what is now known as Super PACs. CCP’s amicus brief was cited in the majority opinion in the Citizens United case. CCP’s legal team represents two cases now pending at the U.S. Supreme Court.