Federal Election Commission v. Colorado Republican Federal Campaign Committee, 533 U.S. 431 (2001)

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

No. 00-191. Argued February 28, 2001—Decided June 25, 2001

In Buckley v. Valeo, 424 U. S. 1, 12-59, this Court held that the limitations on political campaign contributions in the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 were generally constitutional, but that the Act's limitations on election expenditures infringed political expression in violation of the First Amendment. Later cases have respected this line between contributing and spending. The distinction's simplicity is qualified, however, by the Act's provision for a functional, not formal, definition of "contribution," which includes "expenditures made by any person in cooperation, consultation, or concert, with . . . a candidate," 2 U. S. C. 441a(a)(7)(B)(i). Thus, expenditures coordinated with a candidate are contributions under the Act. The Federal Election Commission (FEC) originally took the position that any expenditure by a political party in connection with a federal election was presumed to be coordinated with the party's candidate. See, e. g., Federal Election Comm'n v. Democratic Senatorial Campaign Comm., 454 U. S. 27, 28- 29, n. 1. The FEC thus assumed that all expenditure limits imposed on political parties were, in essence, contribution limits and therefore constitutional. Such limits include 441a(d)(3), which imposes spending limits on national and state political parties with respect to United States Senate elections. In Colorado Republican Federal Campaign Comm. v. Federal Election Comm'n, 518 U. S. 604 (Colorado I), the spending limits in 441a(d)(3) (referred to as the Party Expenditure Provision), were held unconstitutional as applied to the independent expenditures of the Colorado Republican Federal Campaign Committee (Party) in connection with a senatorial campaign. The principal opinion ruled the payments "independent," rather than coordinated, expenditures under this Court's cases because the Party spent the money before selecting its own senatorial candidate and without any arrangement with potential nominees. Id., at 613-614. The principal opinion remanded the Party's broader claim that all limits on a party's congressional campaign expenditures are facially unconstitutional and thus un-


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