(Indianapolis, Indiana ) In a lawsuit filed on May 21st in the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., the Libertarian Party of Indiana (LPIN) challenged provisions of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (“BCRA”) prohibiting the party from creating an Independent Expenditure-only account to be used for party branding, messaging, and non-coordinated candidate support.
Strict regulations were put in place in 2002 with the passage of BCRA, commonly known as McCain-Feingold. Passage of that legislation essentially federalized almost all elections by placing strict regulations on how a political party could raise money, limiting the amount of money that can be raised and, most importantly, preventing a party from easily expressing support for its candidates.
“From our perspective, McCain-Feingold is some of the worst legislation ever conceived, written and passed by our federal government,” stated Dan Drexler, State Chairman of the LPIN. “When the legislation passed in 2002, it was intended to keep soft money and foreign influence out of our federal elections. However, the result has been more money entering into our elections through non-party channels, less transparency in reporting that money and a true hardship on third party and independent political organizations to have our message heard. Adhering to this legislation is a political minefield that truly deters a smaller party from attempting to step into the political arena.”
Since 2002, several U.S. Supreme Court cases have stripped away provisions of the legislation, most notably limitations placed on corporate political spending and the aggregate totals an individual may contribute in an election cycle. The restrictions on a political party have largely remained. If successful, this case would strike down arbitrary limitations on contributions to political parties made for the sole purpose of funding their independent speech.
“It’s our position that among all political and non-political entities, the last group that should be restricted from political advocacy and messaging would be an actual political party. But, that’s where we find ourselves today. We believe we should be on a level playing field with political action committees. In fact, I would argue we are better suited to receive and spend money on political advertising and branding. Particularly as a third party, it’s becoming more difficult for us to own our brand when faced with the large budgets administered by these outside groups. We would still be regulated by the FEC and be required to report transactions in a manner more transparent than other entities,” Drexler offered.
The legal challenge argues that a political party should be allowed to establish an Independent Expenditure-only account that is separate from a current “traditional” federal account. The account must be managed by an appointed committee and will be required to remain segregated from normal party business. The committee will have autonomy in raising funds, developing, approving and placing all advertisements and other political communications, and not coordinate or work with federal candidates or officeholders. An Independent Expenditure-only committee will never meet at the same time or place as the party’s governing board or any other personnel making decisions concerning the party’s contributions or coordinated expenditures. These practices by political action committees have been reaffirmed as acceptable by the U.S. Supreme Court.
“Although, according to a recent Reason poll, 63% of people are concerned about officeholders giving out special favors, they do not believe tight campaign finance restrictions are the solution. The public’s discontent with politics today is actually little to do with a donor or political party,” Drexler explained. “We believe the real problem in politics is who we continue to elect. We need to elect people who answer to their constituents. When we elect people who place a priority on the people they represent, we will see wholesale change in how the business of our country is conducted.”
The LPIN is joined in the lawsuit by businessman Chris Rufer and the Libertarian National Congressional Committee (LNCC).