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The Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty (“WILL”) has taken two actions to challenge the constitutionality of existing campaign finance restrictions. Today, WILL filed a lawsuit on behalf of an individual, Fred Young, challenging a Wisconsin statute stemming from the 1970s that makes it unlawful for an individual to contribute more than $10,000 in the aggregate per year to all candidates for state office and to political committees. Under the statute, if an individual makes the maximum lawful contribution of $10,000 to a single candidate for state-wide office, the individual is then barred from making any other contribution, in any amount, to any other candidate for state office or to any political action committee in the same year.
At the same time WILL has filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in the pending case of Shaun McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission which raises a similar challenge to the federal law. In the amicus brief, WILL is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down the federal aggregate limit on individual contributions. According to Rick Esenberg, President and General Counsel of WILL, “the United States Supreme Court has long recognized that campaign contributions implicate the constitutional rights of speech and association and may only be restricted to prevent the risk of corruption. Although reasonable limits may be placed on the size of a contribution, this anti-corruption interest is not served by limiting the number of legal, non-corrupting contributions a person may make.” “The Supreme Court has made clear,” Esenberg added, “that contributions may not be restricted to ‘level the playing field’ or to limit the influence of persons who give to ‘too many’ candidates.”
Brian McGrath, Senior Counsel at WILL points out that Wisconsin’s aggregate limits are extraordinarily restrictive. “A person who makes a single maximum contribution to a candidate for state-wide office can make no other contributions that year,” he said. The plaintiff in the case, Mr. Young, says that “As an individual, I am concerned about public policy issues in the State of Wisconsin and I want to be involved in helping qualified candidates who believe in the same principles that I do get elected. I have been frustrated with the government’s interference with my ability to participate in the process.”
The complaint can be found here.
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