Saturday, December 7, 2013

McConnell v. Federal Election Commission case brief

McConnell v. Federal Election Commission case brief summary
540 U.S. 93 (2003)

Plaintiffs brought suit in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia challenging the constitutionality of campaign financing and political advertising restrictions imposed under the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (BCRA), 116 Stat. 81. A three-judge court held some portions of BCRA unconstitutional and upheld others. The parties appealed.

Plaintiffs claimed that various amendments made by BCRA to the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 (FECA), 2 U.S.C.S. § 431 et seq., and the Communications Act of 1934 violated, inter alia, their rights to freedom of speech and association under the First Amendment and were facially unconstitutional.

  • The Court found, inter alia, that: 
  • (1) "soft" money prohibitions under 2 U.S.C.S. § 441i(a) were justified by Congress's desire to prevent the actual and apparent corruption of federal candidates and officeholders; 
  • (2) restrictions under § 441i(b)on state and local party committees' use of soft money were necessary to prevent those committees' use as a conduit for soft money; 
  • (3) § 441i(d)'s limits on contributions to tax-exempt organizations applied only to funds not raised in compliance with FECA; 
  • (4) restrictions under 2 U.S.C.S. § 434 did not have to be limited to "express advocacy" and could encompass issue advertising; 
  • (5) limits on independent expenditures under 2 U.S.C.S. § 441a(d)(4) were invalid; and 
  • (6) recordkeeping requirements under 47 U.S.C.S. § 315(e) were virtually identical to existing regulations and were valid.

The district court's judgment was reversed insofar as it (1) found that BCRA's restrictions on soft money were unconstitutional, (2) struck down requirements for disclosure of executory contracts for political advertising, and (3) held unconstitutional BCRA's recordkeeping requirements. The judgment was otherwise affirmed.

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