Legal Center FEC Comments Continue Post-Citizens United Fight Against Flood of Special Interest Corporate Money Into Federal Elections
The Campaign Legal Center, together with Democracy 21, filed comments today with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) urging the FEC to reject a request by the National Defense PAC (NDPAC) that would permit the federal PAC to raise unlimited contributions.
“NDPAC is asking the FEC to ignore a federal law that’s been on the books for nearly 40 years, as well as a Supreme Court decision from 1981 upholding that law,” said Legal Center attorney Paul S. Ryan. “The FEC has no authority to overturn federal laws or to overrule the Supreme Court.”
Unlike other PACs that have recently sought and received advisory opinions from the FEC allowing them to raise unlimited contributions to fund independent expenditures (e.g., Club for Growth, Commonsense Ten), NDPAC has been around for years and makes campaign contributions directly to candidates. In fact, NDPAC is registered with the FEC as a “multicandidate political committee,” which must, by definition, make contributions to 5 or more federal candidates.
NDPAC asks the FEC to extend the recent court decisions in Citizens United andSpeechNow—decisions that dealt with groups that exclusively made independent expenditures not contributions directly to candidates—as justification for the campaign finance deregulation of PACs that do make contributions directly to candidates.
But federal law has for more than 35 years limited contributions to groups like NDPAC that make contributions directly to federal candidates. In 1981, the Supreme Court upheld the limit in its CalMed decision, because PACs that make direct contributions to candidate can corrupt those candidates and could be used by donors to circumvent the limits on what donors can give directly to candidates.
Recent court decisions in Citizens United and SpeechNow, dealing with independent expenditures, have no relevance to the constitutionality of limiting contributions to PACs that contribute to candidates—and the FEC has no authority to declare that they do. The FEC is bound by the 1981 Supreme Court decision inCalMed upholding the contribution limit that applies to NDPAC.