Connecticut halts enforcement of contribution cap in wake of Supreme Court decision

For Release: May 15, 2014      Contact: Joe Trotter          Phone: 210-352-0055 (Cell)

Alexandria, Va. — Connecticut’s Elections Enforcement Commission released an advisory opinion yesterday saying that it “will not enforce the aggregate contribution limits from individuals to various committees” in the state law because the law is unconstitutional under a U.S. Supreme Court ruling.  With the ruling, Connecticut becomes the fourth state to announce it will halt enforcement of such laws.

The Center for Competitive Politics (CCP), a First Amendment advocacy group, urged the commission to halt enforcement of the law after the Supreme Court’s April ruling in the case McCutcheon v. FEC. CCP’s letter is cited by the Commission’s opinion.  CCP reports that similar laws in as many as 17 states and the District of Columbia are constitutionally suspect.

“We’re pleased the Commission promptly confirmed that the law was unconstitutional and announced it would halt its enforcement,” said David Keating, CCP President. “To ensure full compliance with the First Amendment, Connecticut should also repeal this law as soon as possible.  We hope the legislature and governor will act soon to complete the job started by the Commission.”

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, “The 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 Commission’s opinion notes that it “will continue to apply and enforce” the contribution limits “a donor can give to a single candidate or committee.”

Two states, Massachusetts and Maryland, had previously announced that they will no longer enforce their aggregate limits and Wisconsin last week settled a lawsuit that challenged a similar law.  The Rhode Island State Board of Elections announced that it would support legislation that would repeal the state’s aggregate limit provision, and Minnesota’s law is currently being challenged in court.

A copy of CCP’s letter to Connecticut officials is available here.

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.

The Center for Competitive Politics is now the Institute for Free Speech.