Louisiana imposes an aggregate limit of $100,000 on a person’s contributions to a political committee in Louisiana during a four-year election cycle. An independent expenditure-only committee (i.e., a Super PAC) supporting gubernatorial candidate David Vitter sued, arguing that the cap is unconstitutional as applied to super PACs. A federal judge has now agreed.
“[I]ndependent expenditure committees are sacrosanct under the First Amendment.”
The Louisiana judge sided with the unanimous rulings of seven federal courts of appeals that have struck down limits on contributions to Super PACs. Based on these rulings, and the Supreme Court’s landmark Citizens United case, the judge observed that as a matter of law “independent expenditures present not even a marginal risk of corruption,” a principle that holds even if the Super PAC is formed to support a single candidate.
The state’s only argument was that because this is a single-candidate Super PAC, and because the media has reported that it will support Senator Vitter, then the Senator will know about contributions to the committee. As such, the state argued, there was a risk of corruption. The court would not bite. The court noted that the state not only failed to offer any evidence that the PAC was coordinating its efforts with Senator Vitter, it did not even attempt to develop such evidence through discovery from the PAC or third parties.
In short, as the Court explained, “[d]onors have an absolute, unfettered First Amendment interest in contributing money to be used for independent purposes in politics, and the State simply has no legitimate interest in restricting such contributions.” In light of the string of cases holding similarly, the most surprising thing about this case is that the state was unwilling to declare a policy of permitting unlimited contributions to Super PACs.