Reform Groups File Amicus Brief Defending Law Limiting Corrupt ‘Soft-Money’ Contributions to State and Local Parties

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Democracy 21 joined with Public Citizen and the Campaign Legal Center in filing an amicus curiae brief in the U.S. Supreme Court defending the constitutionality of contribution limits to state and local parties used for federal electioneering purposes, established by the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA).

Before BCRA’s enactment, state parties could use unlimited contributions, commonly known as “soft money,” to pay for various activities that benefited candidates for federal office. Large donors, including corporations, would route contributions to state parties to buy influence over federal officeholders. BCRA ended that practice, and the Supreme Court upheld BCRA’s ban on soft money as a legitimate anti-corruption measure in its 2003 decision in McConnell v. FEC and again in 2010 in Republican National Committee v. FEC (RNC).

The brief explains that limits on contributions to state parties are essential safeguards against corruption of the federal candidates whom the state parties support and with whom they are closely tied. The brief argues that the Supreme Court’s Citizens United and McCutcheon decisions left McConnell’s and RNC’s soft-money holdings and anti-corruption rationale untouched.

On Nov. 7, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia issued a unanimous ruling upholding the soft money provisions. The opinion largely adopted the analysis of a brief filed by the three groups in the lower court. The groups are urging the Supreme Court to summarily affirm the lower court’s judgment.

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