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Republican Party of Louisiana v. FEC

This case was brought by the Republican Party of Louisiana, and Republican Party committees in two Louisiana parishes, in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. The Louisiana Republicans contended that provisions of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA) that limit the amounts of contributions they can receive for federal election activity, and that generally bar corporate contributions, are unconstitutional. The case was being heard by a three-judge panel of the district court, and the three-judge court’s decision may be appealed directly to the Supreme Court.

Before BCRA’s enactment, state parties could use unlimited contributions, referred to as “soft money,” to pay for various activities that benefited candidates for federal office. Contributors, including corporations, routed contributions to the 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.

In this case, the Louisiana Republicans argued that the McConnell decision has been undermined by subsequent decisions including Citizens United v. FEC and McCuthcheon v. FEC, which struck down other campaign finance rules.

Public Citizen, together with Democracy 21 and the Campaign Legal Center, filed an amicus curiae brief supporting the constitutionality of BCRA. We explained 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. And we argued that Citizens United and McCutcheon leave McConnell’s soft-money holding, and its anti-corruption rationale, untouched. On November 7, 2016, the three-judge court issued a unanimous ruling upholding the BCRA soft-money provisions. The opinion closely tracks the arguments made in our amicus brief.

In January 2017, the Louisiana Republicans asked the U.S. Supreme Court to hear an appeal of the district court’s decision. In February 2017, Public Citizen, again joined by Democracy 21 and the Campaign Legal Center, filed an amicus curiae brief urging the Supreme Court to affirm the district court’s decision summarily. On May 22, 2017, the Supreme Court issued a brief order summarily affirming.