Democracy 21 applauds DC Circuit Court of Appeals decision to uphold constitutionality of campaign contribution limits

Democracy 21 is pleased by today’s unanimous decision by the en banc D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in Holmes v. FEC to uphold the constitutionality of the per-election limits on contribution to candidates in federal elections.

Currently, federal law limits contributions by individuals to federal candidates to $2,700 per election—in other words, $2,700 for a primary election and $2,700 for a general election.  The limits were challenged by two individual donors who argued that they should be able to give the entire amount of $5,400 just to a candidate’s general election account, if they made no contributions to the candidate’s primary election.

In a decision written by Judge Srinivasan, all ten active judges on the D.C. Circuit correctly rejected the claim.  The opinion noted that the system of per-election contribution limits had been upheld by the Supreme Court in the 1976 case of Buckley v. Valeo.  The D.C. Circuit found that courts generally defer to Congress’ choices in setting contribution limits, so long as the limits are not set unreasonably low.  The same deference, the court held, applies to Congress’ choice to set limits on a per-election basis rather than for an entire election cycle.  In short, the court concluded that “we see no basis to upset Congress’ choice of a per-election ceiling over a per-cycle ceiling.”

Democracy 21 President Fred Wertheimer said, “The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals opinion makes crystal clear that Congress can constitutionally enact contribution limits for candidates on a per election basis. The approach that was challenged has been the law of the land since 1974. This legal challenge shows that opponents of campaign finance laws are willing to throw any campaign finance provision against the wall to see if it can be struck down, regardless of the complete lack of merit to the challenge.”

Democracy 21 joined the Campaign Legal Center in filing an amicus brief in the case before the D.C. Circuit.