Ninth Circuit, on 2-1 Vote, Rejects Limits on Non-Resident Contributions to Alaska Elections, Upholds Other Alaska Campaign Finance Limits

You can find the opinion in Thompson v. Hebdon at this link.

The court majority (Callahan, Bea) held that the part of the Alaska law limiting out-of-state residents from contributing more than $3,000 per year to Alaska elections violated the First Amendment. I expected such a holding under Supreme Court precedent, though the Court has never addressed the issue. Chief Judge Thomas dissented on this question, analogizing the ban to the foreign spending ban upheld in Bluman v. FEC. I wonder if the Chief will seek to take this case en banc to the Supreme Court.

Speaking of en banc, there is another notable aspect of this case. The court unanimously upholds Alaska’s $500 individual contribution limit and two other contribution limits relying upon existing Ninth Circuit authority. There was a huge fight at the Ninth Circuit a few months ago over whether that Ninth Circuit authority should be overturned (so as to make it easier to strike down campaign finance laws) in light of recent Supreme Court developments. The Ninth Circuit refused to take the case en banc, and both Judge Callahan and Judge Bea dissented from the denial of en banc rehearing.

We are currently waiting to see if the Supreme Court takes that earlier Ninth Circuit case.

 

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