On February 19, the U.S. Supreme Court said it will hear McCutcheon v Federal Election Commission, the case in which the Republican Party and a resident of Alabama argue that federal law, limiting the amount of money an individual may donate to all federal campaigns in any two-year period, is unconstitutional. The Alabama resident wants to donate to dozens of Republicans running for Congress, or else to donate to the Republican Party so that the Republican Party can help those nominees. But federal law limits the total amount an individual may contribute to all such campaigns combined.
Meanwhile, the Libertarian Party is still waiting for a U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., to decide if the party’s lawsuit to receive a bequest is a “substantial” enough lawsuit to justify convening all the judges of the U.S. Court of Appeals, D.C. Circuit. The federal campaign law passed by Congress in 1974 says that “substantial” challenges to the constitutionality of that law must be heard by all the judges of the U.S. Court of Appeals in D.C. The requirement for an en banc hearing is not rational and should have been repealed long ago. The D.C. Circuit has four vacancies, and the caseload for each remaining judge is very high. Forcing all the judges of the Circuit to hear this case is very burdensome to that Circuit.
On February 21, the U.S. District Court Judge hearing the Libertarian bequest case asked both sides to express themselves as to whether the recent action of the U.S. Supreme Court in taking the Republican Alabama case has any impact on the Libertarian case. The Libertarian Party then responded that the U.S. Supreme Court’s action shows that constitutionality of contribution limits is still very much a live controversy. The FEC, by contrast, said that the McCutcheon case and the Libertarian case are not similar and the U.S. Supreme Court action is not relevant.
The Libertarian case arose when Raymond Burrington died on April 26, 2007. He left $217,734 to the national Libertarian Party, but the party can’t receive the money as a lump sum, but must only obtain $30,800 per calendar year, because federal law prohibits an individual from giving more than that to a national political party per year, whether the giver is alive or dead. UPDATE: here is a press release about the hearing in this case that will be held Monday, February 25.