CfA Joins All-Star Legal Team Representing Candidates and Members of Congress Seeking to Abolish Super PAC Spending


CONTACT: Daniel Stevens,, 202.780.5750


WASHINGTON, DC – A bipartisan coalition of Members of Congress and 2016 congressional candidates filed today a complaint before the Federal Election Commission seeking to end super PAC spending in US elections.  The complaint, led by Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Representative Ted Lieu (D-CA-33), and Representative Walter Jones (R-NC-3), seeks to reverse a federal appeals court ruling which created super PACs and has resulted in an explosion of spending in elections across the country.

Click here to read the complaint.

The March 2010 ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in v. FEC, opened the door to super PACs by holding that the federal law limiting contributions to political committees to $5,000 per person each year did not apply to a political committee that promised to make only “independent expenditures.”  The FEC complaint filed today alleges that super PACs have now become vehicles for wealthy donors to evade campaign contribution limits designed to prevent corruption and the appearance of corruption.  The US Supreme Court has yet to review this question.

As the complaint cites, more than forty percent of federal super PAC contributions, as of April 2016, had come from just 50 funders and their families.  By late June 2016, federal super PACs had reported total receipts of more than $755 million and total expenditures of more than $405 million.

The FEC complaint names ten super PACs as respondents, including the Democratic and Republican super PACs for Senate and House candidates.  It alleges that the super PACs “have knowingly accepted and continue to knowingly accept contributions that exceed the $5,000 per contributor limit, in some cases by over a hundredfold.”  The $5,000 per contributor limit has remained on the books after the SpeechNow ruling.  The FEC complaint seeks enforcement of this $5,000 contribution limit, thereby abolishing super PACs in US elections.

According to the FEC complaint, “[t]he availability of quid pro quo transactions through super PAC contributions creates a potential for corruption, and an appearance of corruption that is confirmed by the public.  For this reason, enforcing the contribution limits…against super PACs is justified by the interest in preventing corruption and the appearance of corruption.”

Free Speech For People, a national non-profit public interest organization founded on the day of the US Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United v. FEC, serves as lead counsel for the complainants, along with Campaign for Accountability.  The legal team includes a bipartisan group of distinguished scholars and practitioners in the law of the First Amendment, corruption, and government ethics: Professor Laurence Tribe (Harvard Law School); Professor Albert Alschuler (Univ. of Chicago Law School, emeritus); Ambassador (ret.) Norman Eisen (former chief ethics counsel to President Barack Obama); and Professor Richard Painter (Univ. of Minnesota Law School, and former chief ethics counsel to President George W. Bush).

Campaign for Accountability is a nonpartisan, nonprofit watchdog organization that uses research, litigation, and aggressive communications to expose misconduct and malfeasance in public life and hold those who act at the expense of the public good accountable for their actions.