Institute for Free Speech Urges Sixth Circuit to Protect Free Political Speech in the Form of Coordinated Political Party Expenditures

The brief argues that limits on such expenditures violate the First Amendment because the rule is not narrowly tailored to prevent quid pro quo corruption or its appearance

March 12, 2024   •  By IFS Staff   •    •  
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Cincinnati, OH — The Institute for Free Speech has filed an amicus brief in National Republican Senatorial Committee v. FEC, urging the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit to strike down the Federal Election Campaign Act’s (FECA) limits on coordinated expenditures between political party committees and their candidates.

The brief, written by Institute founder Bradley A. Smith and Senior Attorney Brett Nolan, explains that “FECA’s limits on coordinated party expenditures fight against a harm that either does not exist, or that is effectively managed by other more narrowly drawn rules.” In highlighting the imprecise tailoring of the rules, the brief draws on the experience of the states.

“When more than half the states manage to operate elections without restricting coordinated party expenditures and without giving rise to any relevant quid pro quo, it is hard to believe that the law is ‘necessary to prevent [the] anticipated harm,’” notes the brief. “The states’ experience in allowing political parties to support their own candidates without restriction leaves no doubt that the government’s fear is nothing more than ‘mere conjecture.’”

Separately, the brief explains that federal earmarking rules, which treat contributions to parties where the donor designates or suggests a preferred candidate as direct contributions to that candidate, already prevent circumvention of individual contribution limits.

“Thus, by ensuring that parties retain ‘independent’ control over their expenditures, the earmarking rules guard against the ‘anticipated harm’ that donors may circumvent contribution limits by giving to the parties,” the brief notes. “[F]ederal law already prevents that risk with a much narrower regulation that does not unnecessarily restrict the speech of political parties.”

For these reasons, the Institute for Free Speech argues that FECA’s coordinated party expenditure limits are not narrowly tailored to prevent quid pro quo corruption or its appearance, thereby failing the Supreme Court’s First Amendment standard for campaign finance restrictions. The brief urges the Sixth Circuit to strike down the limits and vindicate the speech rights of political parties.

To read the amicus brief in the case National Republican Senatorial Committee v. FEC, click here.

About the Institute for Free Speech

The Institute for Free Speech promotes and defends the political speech rights to freely speak, assemble, publish, and petition the government guaranteed by the First Amendment.

IFS Staff

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