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Federal Election Commission v. National Conservative Political Action Committee

470 U.S. 480 (1985)

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Federal Election Commission v. National Conservative Political Action Committee

United States Supreme Court

470 U.S. 480 (1985)

Facts

The National Conservative Political Action Committee (NCPAC) and the Fund for a Conservative Majority (FCM) (defendants) were independent political-action committees. In 1979-80, NCPAC received an average $75 contribution from 101,000 people. In 1980, FCM received an average $25 contribution from 100,000 people. NCPAC and FCM solicited funds and spent money on radio and television advertisements in support of President Ronald Reagan. The independent expenditures were not made in coordination or at the request of the official Reagan campaign. Under the Presidential Election Campaign Fund Act (PECFA), presidential candidates of major political parties could opt into public financing for the general election. Once a candidate opted into public financing, PECFA § 9012(f) criminalized expenditures greater than $1,000 by political committees. In May 1983, the Democratic Party sued NCPAC and FCM, seeking a declaration that PECFA § 9012(f) was constitutional. The Federal Elections Committee (FEC) joined to move to dismiss for lack of standing. In June 1983, the FEC sued NCPAC and FCM for identical relief. The court denied granting a declaration that PECFA § 9012(f) was constitutional as requested by the FEC and Democratic Party. The court held that PECFA § 9012(f) violated First Amendment freedoms of speech and association, was substantially overbroad, and could not be given a narrow construction. The court did not hold, however, that PECFA § 9012(f) was unconstitutional.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Rehnquist, J.)

Dissent (White, J.)

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