Campaign donor limits challenged
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Louisiana’s campaign law unconstitutionally limits political action groups’ free speech by limiting each donor to $100,000 over a four-year election cycle, the founder of a super PAC supporting U.S. Sen. David Vitter told a federal district judge Wednesday.
Charles Spies of The Fund for Louisiana’s Future said a long string of federal decisions, dating back to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1958 ruling that the NAACP’s right of political association was protected by the First Amendment, supports his case.
The most recent was last week, when a judge struck down New York State’s $150,000-a-year cap because the U.S. Supreme Court struck down limits on donations to independent political committees, he said.
U.S. District Judge Marty Feldman said he hadn’t been aware of the New York decision.
Louisiana’s ethics board, which oversees state campaign finance laws, refused in January to eliminate the state cap, saying it lacked jurisdiction to declare a state law unenforceable or unconstitutional. Board members advised Spies either to ask the Legislature to change the law or to go to court.
“This committee was formed to support David Vitter,” Andre Gaudin, representing the ethics board, told Feldman.
Spies argued the PAC’s spending decisions are separate from Vitter’s campaign. The Federal Elections Commission has said many times that “common vendors or fundraising does not imply a lack of independence for the spending side,” Spies said.
Feldman noted that Spies has filed a statement swearing to the PAC’s independence and could be jailed if it were proven false.
The group was created last year to raise money to independently advocate for Vitter, before he announced he was running for governor. It reported raising $1.5 million through the end of last year.
Donald “Boysie” Bollinger, a prominent GOP campaign contributor and shipbuilding company owner, wants to donate more than $100,000, Spies said.
Fines for violating the current cap on PAC donor limits in Louisiana run up to $1,000 per violation.