The opinion of the court was delivered by: HOGAN
In this action, the plaintiffs challenge the constitutionality of a District of Columbia statute restricting campaign contributions to candidates for local office. Because the contribution limits improperly infringe upon candidates' and voters' First Amendment rights, the Court will enjoin enforcement of the statute.
In 1992, District of Columbia voters approved the enactment of Initiative 41, now codified at D.C. Code § 1-1441.1 (a)&(b) (Supp. 1995). Initiative 41 prohibits contributors from giving more than $ 100 per election cycle to candidates for District-wide office or more than $ 50 per cycle to candidates for ward office or political party posts. The law also prohibits any contributor from giving more than $ 600 to all candidates in any election. These new limits replace substantially higher caps, which ranged from $ 200 to $ 2000 per contributor per candidate, depending upon the race.
B. The Plaintiffs' Claims
The plaintiffs, who play a variety of roles in the District of Columbia's electoral process, challenge the constitutionality of Initiative 41 on several grounds. They argue that the new limits deprive them of their rights of freedom of speech and freedom of association by (1) preventing them from making or receiving contributions in excess of the limits; (2) limiting the amount of information they can receive about candidates; and (3) restricting the rights of political parties to decide what contribution limits should apply to intra-party races.
The plaintiffs also argue that they are deprived of their First Amendment freedoms without equal protection of the laws because the caps unfairly burden (1) challengers who did not have an opportunity to accept larger contributions before Initiative 41 took effect, (2) minority-party and independent candidates; (3) candidates without personal wealth; (4) candidates who must compete in contested races in both primary and general elections; and (5) challengers in general.
There are five individual and four organizational plaintiffs. John Harvey, Ron Magnus, and Vincent Orange are suing as both contributors and candidates for public office. In 1994, Harvey ran for Council Member At-Large and Magnus ran for Ward 5 Council Member. Orange ran for Council Chair in 1990 and 1993 and for Ward 5 Council Member in 1994. Ronald E. Hampton is suing as a contributor and as the Executive Director of the National Black Police Association. Katherine S. Broderick is suing as a contributor and voter. The Libertarian Party and the District of Columbia Chapter of the Republican National African American Council ("DC-RNAC") are both suing as political organizations interested in controlling the terms of party primary elections without the interference of governmentally imposed contribution caps. These two organizations, along with the National Black Police Association and the American Civil Liberties Union of the National Capital Area, are also suing on behalf of their members who vote, run for office, and contribute to political campaigns in the District of Columbia.
The defendants are the District of Columbia and the District's Board of Elections and Ethics. The latter is responsible for the implementation and enforcement of Initiative 41.
Three other organizations had moved to intervene as defendants, but the Court denied their motions and allowed them to participate as amici. These are Common Cause, Common Cause/District of Columbia, and the Association of ...