Agreeing with the Second Circuit and Eighth Circuit (now up on en banc appeal) and disagreeing with the district court in the Danielczyk case (now on appeal to the 4th Circuit), a federal district court in San Diego today had upheld the City of San Diego’s laws banning corporations, labor unions, and other non-individual entities (aside from political parties) from contributing money directly to candidates for City office.
The opinion in Thalheimer v. City of San Diego is here.[Disclosure: I am one of the attorneys for the City of San Diego.]
In addition to upholding the ban on corporate/non-human contributions directly to candidates, the Court also rejected a challenge to San Diego’s $500 individual contribution limit to City candidates, as well as a ban on contributions to City candidate more than 12 months before the election.
However, the Court struck down the ban on political party contributions to candidates, as well as a backup $1,000 contribution limit from political parties to candidates which the City had put in place after an earlier preliminary injunction. “At this time, the Court cannot say whether a $5,000 or $20,000 limit on contributions by political parties would be sufficient to pass the constitutional muster under Randall.” I believe this is the first case in which a court has held that political parties have a constitutional right to contribute money directly to candidates, and that the amount of the contribution limit must pass muster under the Randall analysis.