__ U.S. __, 19-122, Thompson v. Hebdon

Docket Nº:19-122
Citation:__ U.S. __, 140 S.Ct. 348
Opinion Judge:PER CURIAM.
Party Name:David THOMPSON, et al., v. Heather HEBDON, Executive Director of the Alaska Public Offices Commission, et al.
Judge Panel:GINSBURG, Justice.
Case Date:November 25, 2019
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page __

__ U.S. __

140 S.Ct. 348

David THOMPSON, et al.,


Heather HEBDON, Executive Director of the Alaska Public Offices Commission, et al.

No. 19-122

United States Supreme Court

November 25, 2019

United States District Court for the District of Alaska, Timothy M. Burgess, Chief Judge.



Alaska law limits the amount an individual can contribute to a candidate for political office, or to an election-oriented group other than a political party, to $500 per year. Alaska Stat. § 15.13.070(b)(1) (2018). Petitioners Aaron Downing and Jim Crawford are Alaska residents. In 2015, they contributed the maximum amounts permitted under Alaska law to candidates or groups of their choice, but wanted to contribute more. They sued members of the Alaska Public Offices Commission, contending that Alaska’s individual-to-candidate and individual-to-group contribution limits violate the First Amendment.

The District Court upheld the contribution limits and the Ninth Circuit agreed. 909 F.3d 1027 (2018); Thompson v. Dauphinais, 217 F.Supp.3d 1023 (D.Alaska 2016). Applying Circuit precedent, the Ninth Circuit analyzed whether the contribution limits furthered a "sufficiently important state interest" and were "closely drawn" to that end. 909 F.3d at 1034 (quoting Montana Right to Life Assn. v. Eddleman, 343 F.3d 1085, 1092 (2003); internal quotation marks omitted). The court recognized that our decisions in Citizens United v. Federal Election Comm’n and McCutcheon v. Federal Election Comm’n narrow "the type of state interest that justifies a First Amendment intrusion on political contributions" to combating "actual quid pro quo corruption or its appearance." 909 F.3d at 1034 (citing McCutcheon v. Federal Election Comm’n, 572 U.S. 185, 206-207, 134 S.Ct. 1434, 188 L.Ed.2d 468 (2014); Citizens United v. Federal Election Comm’n, 558 U.S. 310, 359-360, 130 S.Ct. 876, 175 L.Ed.2d 753 (2010)). The court below explained that under its precedent in this area "the quantum of evidence necessary to justify a legitimate state interest is low: the perceived threat must be merely more than ‘mere conjecture’ and ‘not ... illusory.’ " 909 F.3d at 1034 (quoting Eddleman, 343 F.3d at 1092; some internal quotation marks omitted). The court acknowledged that "McCutcheon and Citizens United created some doubt as to the continuing vitality of [this] standard," but [140 S.Ct. 350] noted that the Ninth Circuit had recently reaffirmed it. 909 F.3d at 1034, n. 2.

After surveying the States evidence, the court concluded that the individual-to-candidate contribution limit "focuses narrowly on the states interest,leaves the contributor free to affiliate with a...

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