453 U.S. 182 (1981), 79-1952, California Medical Association v. Federal Elections Commission

Docket Nº:No. 79-1952
Citation:453 U.S. 182, 101 S.Ct. 2712, 69 L.Ed.2d 567
Party Name:California Medical Association v. Federal Elections Commission
Case Date:June 26, 1981
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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453 U.S. 182 (1981)

101 S.Ct. 2712, 69 L.Ed.2d 567

California Medical Association

v.

Federal Elections Commission

No. 79-1952

United States Supreme Court

June 26, 1981

Argued January 19, 1981

APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR

THE NINTH CIRCUIT

Syllabus

One provision of the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 (Act), 2 U.S.C. § 441a(a)(1)(C), prohibits individuals and unincorporated associations from contributing more than $5,000 per calendar year to any multicandidate political committee. A related provision, § 441a(f), makes it unlawful for political committees knowingly to accept contributions exceeding the $5,000 limit. Appellant California Medical Association (CMA) is a not-for-profit unincorporated association of doctors, and appellant California Medical Political Action Committee (CALPAC) is a political committee formed by CMA and registered with appellee Federal Election Commission (FEC). When CMA and CALPAC were notified of an impending enforcement proceeding by the FEC for alleged violations of §§ 441a(a)(1)(C) and 441a(f), they, together with individual members, filed a declaratory judgment action in Federal District Court challenging the constitutionality of these provisions. Subsequently, the FEC filed its enforcement proceeding in the same District Court, and CMA and CALPAC pleaded as affirmative defenses the same constitutional claims raised in their declaratory judgment action. Pursuant to the special expedited review provisions of the Act, § 437h(a), the District Court, while the enforcement proceeding was still pending, certified the constitutional questions [101 S.Ct. 2715] raised in the declaratory judgment action to the Court of Appeals, which rejected the constitutional claims and upheld the challenged $5,000 [101 S.Ct. 2713] limit on annual contributions. Appellants sought review on direct appeal in this Court pursuant to § 437h(b).

Held: The judgment is affirmed. Pp. 187-201; 201-204.

641 F.2d 619, affirmed.

JUSTICE MARSHALL delivered the opinion of the Court with respect to Parts I, II, and IV, concluding that:

1. This Court has jurisdiction over the appeal. There is no merit to the FEC's contention that, in view of the overlapping provisions of the Act for judicial review of declaratory judgment actions, § 437h(a), and enforcement proceedings, § 437g(a)(10), and because Congress

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failed to provide any mechanism for coordinating cases in which the same constitutional issues are raised by the same parties in both a declaratory judgment action and an enforcement proceeding, as here, a direct appeal to this Court under § 437h(b) should be limited to situations in which no enforcement proceedings are pending, since otherwise litigants, like appellants here, could disrupt and delay enforcement proceedings and undermine the functioning of the federal courts. Neither the statutory language nor legislative history of §§ 437g and 437h indicates that Congress intended such a limitation. Pp. 187-192.

2. Section 441a(a)(1)(C) does not violate the equal protection component of the Fifth Amendment on the ground, alleged by appellants, that, because a corporation's or labor union's contributions to a segregated political fund are unlimited under the Act, an unincorporated association's contribution to a multicandidate political committee cannot be limited without violating equal protection. Appellants' contention ignores the fact that the Act as a whole imposes far fewer restrictions on individuals and unincorporated associations than it does on corporations and unions. The differing restrictions placed on individuals and unincorporated associations, on the one hand, and on corporations and unions, on the other, reflect a congressional judgment that these entities have differing structures and purposes and that they therefore may require different forms of regulation in order to protect the integrity of the political process. Pp. 200-201.

JUSTICE MARSHALL, joined by JUSTICE BRENNAN, JUSTICE WHITE, and JUSTICE STEVENS, concluded in Part III that § 441a(a)(1)(C) does not violate the First Amendment. Nothing in § 441a(a)(1)(C) limits the amount CMA or any of its members may independently expend in order to advocate political views; rather, the provision restrains only the amount CMA may contribute to CALPAC. The "speech by proxy" that CMA seeks to achieve through its contributions to CALPAC is not the sort of political advocacy that this Court, in Buckley v. Valeo, 424 U.S. 1, found entitled to full First Amendment protection. Since CALPAC receives contributions from more than 50 persons a year, appellants' claim that CALPAC is merely the mouthpiece of CMA is untenable. CALPAC instead is a separate legal entity that receives funds from multiple sources and engages in independent political advocacy. If the First Amendment rights of a contributor are not infringed by limitations on the amount he may contribute to a campaign organization which advocates the views and candidacy of a particular candidate, Buckley v. Valeo, supra, the rights of a contributor are similarly not impaired by limits on the amount he may give to a multicandidate political committee, such as CALPAC, which advocates the

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views and candidacies of a number of candidates. Moreover, the challenged contribution restriction, contrary to appellants' claim, is an appropriate means by which Congress could seek to protect the integrity of the contribution restrictions upheld in Buckley v. Valeo. Pp. 193-199.

JUSTICE BLACKMUN concluded that the challenged contribution limitation does not violate the First Amendment because it [101 S.Ct. 2716] is no broader than necessary to achieve the governmental interest in preventing actual or potential corruption. Pp. 201-204.

MARSHALL, J., announced the Court's judgment and delivered the opinion of the Court with respect to Parts I, II, and IV, in which BRENNAN, WHITE, BLACKMUN, and STEVENS, JJ., joined, and an opinion with respect to Part III, in which BRENNAN, WHITE, and STEVENS, JJ., joined. BLACKMUN, J., filed an opinion concurring in part and concurring in the judgment, post, p. 201. STEWART, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BURGER, C.J., and POWELL and REHNQUIST, JJ., joined, post, p. 204.

MARSHALL, J., lead opinion

JUSTICE MARSHALL delivered the opinion of the Court with respect to Parts I, II, and IV, and delivered an opinion with respect to Part III, in which JUSTICE BRENNAN, JUSTICE WHITE, and JUSTICE STEVENS joined.

In this case, we consider whether provisions of the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971, 86 Stat. 11, as amended, 2 U.S.C. § 431 et seq. (1976 ed. and Supp. III), limiting the amount an unincorporated association may contribute to a multicandidate political committee violate the First Amendment or the equal protection component of the Fifth Amendment. Concluding that these contribution limits are constitutional,

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we affirm the judgment of the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

I

The California Medical Association(CMA) is a not-for-profit unincorporated association of approximately 25,000 doctors residing in California. In 1976, CMA formed the California Medical Political Action Committee(CALPAC). CALPAC is registered as a political committee with the Federal Election Commission, and is subject to the provisions of the Federal Election Campaign Act relating to multicandidate political committees.1 One such provision, 2 U.S.C. § 441a(a)(1)(C), prohibits individuals and unincorporated associations such as CMA from contributing more than $5,000 per calendar year to any multicandidate political committee such as CALPAC.2 A related provision of the Act, 2 U.S.C. § 441a(f), makes it unlawful for political committees such as CALPAC knowingly to accept contributions exceeding this limit.3

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In October, 1978, the Federal Election Commission found "reason to believe" that CMA had violated the Act by making annual contributions to CALPAC in excess of $5,000, and that CALPAC had unlawfully accepted such contributions. When informal conciliation efforts failed, the Commission, in April, 1979 ,authorized its staff to institute a civil enforcement action against CMA and CALPAC to secure compliance with the contribution limitations of the Act. In early May, 1979, after receiving formal notification of the Commission's impending enforcement action, CMA and CALPAC, together with two individual members of these organizations, filed this declaratory judgment action in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California challenging the constitutionality of the statutory contribution limitations upon which the Commission's enforcement action was to be based. Several weeks later, [101 S.Ct. 2717] the Commission filed its enforcement action in the same District Court. In this second suit, CMA and CALPAC pleaded as affirmative defenses the same constitutional claims raised in their declaratory judgment action.

On May 17, 1979, pursuant to the special expedited review provisions of the Act set forth in 2 U.S.C. § 437h (1976 ed. and Supp. III),4 the District Court certified the constitutional questions raised in appellants' declaratory judgment action to the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. In the meantime, pretrial discovery and preparation in the Commission's enforcement action continued in the District Court. In May, 1980, a divided Court of Appeals, sitting en banc, rejected appellants' constitutional claims and upheld the $5,000 limit on annual contributions by unincorporated associations to multicandidate political committees. 641 F.2d 619. Appellants sought review of that determination in this Court, again pursuant to the special jurisdictional provisions of 2 U.S.C.

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§ 437h (1976...

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