Colorado Republican Federal Campaign Comm. v. Federal Election Comm'n, 518 U.S. 604 (1996)

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certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the tenth circuit

No. 95-489. Argued April 15, 1996—Decided June 26, 1996

Before the Colorado Republican Party selected its 1986 senatorial candidate, its Federal Campaign Committee (Colorado Party), a petitioner here, bought radio advertisements attacking the Democratic Party's likely candidate. The Federal Election Commission (FEC) brought suit charging that the Colorado Party had violated the "Party Expenditure Provision" of the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 (FECA), 2 U. S. C. 441a(d)(3), which imposes dollar limits upon political party "expenditure[s] in connection with the general election campaign of a [congressional] candidate." The Colorado Party defended in part by claiming that the expenditure limitations violated the First Amendment as applied to its advertisements, and filed a counterclaim seeking to raise a facial challenge to the provision as a whole. The District Court interpreted the "in connection with" language narrowly and held that the provision did not cover the expenditure at issue. It therefore entered summary judgment for the Colorado Party, dismissing the counterclaim as moot. In ordering judgment for the FEC, the Court of Appeals adopted a somewhat broader interpretation of the provision, which, it said, both covered this expenditure and satisfied the Constitution.

Held: The judgment is vacated, and the case is remanded.

59 F. 3d 1015, vacated and remanded.

Justice Breyer, joined by Justice O'Connor and Justice Souter,

concluded that the First Amendment prohibits application of the Party Expenditure Provision to the kind of expenditure at issue here—an expenditure that the political party has made independently, without coordination with any candidate. Pp. 613-623. (a) The outcome is controlled by this Court's FECA case law. After weighing the First Amendment interest in permitting candidates (and their supporters) to spend money to advance their political views, against a "compelling" governmental interest in protecting the electoral system from the appearance and reality of corruption, see, e. g., Buckley v. Valeo, 424 U. S. 1, 14-23 (per curiam), the Court has ruled unconstitutional FECA provisions that, inter alia, limited the right of individuals,

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