The Center for Competitive Politics (CCP) and the Cato Institute filed a joint friend-of-the-court brief urging that strict scrutiny be applied to a law that bans four individuals with small federal contracts from donating even a dime to any federal candidate.
Unlike contribution limits, which place a ceiling on the amount of money any individual is allowed to give to a federal candidate, the contractor ban prohibits a wide swath of citizens from making any political contribution. As a result, individuals who may have even the slightest contract with the government—contracts often awarded by independent administrative agencies that have no input or review by members of Congress —are banned from making even a penny of campaign contributions. For over forty years, the U.S. Supreme Court has found that the act of contributing to political campaigns is protected by the First Amendment right of free association, a right that rests “at the foundation of a free society.”
The CCP-Cato brief contends that even if strict scrutiny is not applied, the D.C. Circuit should still find the ban unconstitutional. As written, the ban sweeps in individual contributors who pose no risk of corrupting public officials, but still prohibits them from associating with the candidates of their choice.