The US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit [official website] on Monday struck down [opinion, PDF] a Wisconsin law that prohibited people from donating more than $10,000 a year to political action committees (PACs). The case was brought by Wisconsin Right to Life [advocacy website] before the 2010 gubernatorial election on grounds that the law violated the First Amendment. The unanimous decision does not apply [press release] to political action committees that give contributions to candidates or political parties, only to those that act independently of candidates or political parties. All citizens of Wisconsin did not greet the decision warmly. Mike McCabe, the executive director of Wisconsin Democracy Campaign said that the decision would cede too much power to political action committees in deciding elections. The appeal followed a decision by the US District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin [official website] that dismissed the case on grounds that the law was not unduly burdensome [order, PDF] on Wisconsin Right to Life.
Several courts have recently decided issues relating to campaign finance [JURIST news archive]. In June, the US Supreme Court [official website] ruled that an Arizona campaign finance regulation violated the First Amendment [JURIST report]. In May, the US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit [official website] upheld [JURIST report] a Minnesota law that prohibited direct contributions to candidates and affiliated entities. The US District Court for the Southern District of New York [official website] ruled in 2009 that a Connecticut campaign finance law discriminated against minor party candidates [JURIST report] that violated the First and Fourteenth Amendments. Many of the issues pertaining to the legality of campaign finance laws arose when the Supreme Court made its decision [JURIST report] in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which limited the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act [text, PDF]. That challenge has paved the way for the other challenges to campaign financing laws.