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James v. Federal Election Com'n

United States District Court, District of Columbia

October 31, 2012

Virginia JAMES, Plaintiff,
v.
FEDERAL ELECTION COMMISSION, Defendant.

Anne M. Mackin, Tyler L. Martinez, Allen Joseph Dickerson, Center for Competitive Politics, Alexandria, VA, for Plaintiff.

Adav Noti, Federal Election Commission, Washington, DC, for Defendant.

Before: BROWN, Circuit Judge; WILKINS, District Judge; and BOASBERG, District Judge.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

BOASBERG, District Judge.

Plaintiff Virginia James wishes to contribute to federal candidates and their

Page 2

committees. Although she has no desire to exceed the $2,500 limit on contributions to particular candidates, she seeks to make contributions in the aggregate beyond the $46,200 ceiling currently allowed by the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002. She has, accordingly, brought this suit against the Federal Election Commission, arguing tat the aggregate limit on candidate contributions is unconstitutional.

At the time she filed this action, this same three judge Court was considering the case of McCutcheon v. FEC, No. 12-cv-1034. The plaintiffs there had challenged several of BCRA's aggregate limits, including the one James takes issue with. We consequently stayed James's suit pending the resolution of McCutcheon. Having now rejected all of the McCutcheon plaintiffs' claims, see 893 F.Supp.2d 133, 2012 WL 4466482 (D.D.C. Sept. 28, 2012), the Court may turn to James's suit. Finding no basis to distinguish it from McCutcheon, the Court will dismiss her case as well.

I. Background

According to the Complaint, which must be presumed true for purposes of this Opinion, Plaintiff is " a private individual" who " has given to political candidates in the past and plans to continue doing so." Compl., ¶ 5. During this biennium, she " has contributed at least $27,000 to candidate committees." Id., ¶ 15. She wishes, however, " to contribute more than the current sub-aggregate limit of $46,200 to various political candidates, but does not wish to exceed the $2,500 limit on contributions to each individual candidate." Id., ¶ 5 (citation omitted). In addition, she does not " wish to exceed the overall biennial limit of $117,000 on all contributions to candidates, PACs, and parties." Id. (citation omitted). " Rather, she wishes to take money that she may legally contribute to PACs and parties, and instead contribute it directly to candidates she wishes to support." Id. Indeed, the " only contributions Ms. James wishes to make during the balance of this biennium are direct contributions of up to $2,500 to individual candidate committees." Id., ¶ 21 (emphasis original).

To ensure that her desired contributions are legal, she filed this suit on August 31, 2012, challenging BCRA's aggregate limit of $46,200 on contributions to individual candidates as facially unconstitutional (Count I) and unconstitutional as applied to her (Count II). She then moved five days later for a preliminary injunction enjoining the FEC from enforcing the aggregate limits on contributions to candidate committees. See ECF No. 5.

An action filed after December 31, 2006, that is " brought for declaratory or injunctive relief to challenge the constitutionality of any provision" of BCRA " shall be filed in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia and shall be heard by a 3 judge court convened pursuant to [28 U.S.C. § 2284]" if the plaintiff requests such a court. See Pub. L. No. 107-155, 116 Stat. 113-14. As Plaintiff here filed an unopposed request for a 3 judge court, Chief Judge David B. Sentelle assigned this matter to us. See Amended Order of September 18, 2012.

Meanwhile, back in June 2012, Shaun McCutcheon and the Republican National Committee had brought an action against the FEC challenging the limits on contributions to both candidate and non-candidate committees. This matter was assigned to the three judges of this Court, who received lengthy briefing from the parties and amici curiae and held a hearing on September 6, 2012. Not wishing to duplicate efforts, we stayed James's case on ...


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