On remand, the Eighth Circuit found persuasive the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Colorado case, noting that "it is not necessary for the state to show that circumvention is actually occurring in Missouri, for the factual record in Colorado II suffices to justify Missouri’s conclusion that means other than its earmarking prohibition are necessary to prevent circumvention." EIGHTH CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS REVERSES ITSELF ON CAMPAIGN FINANCE

Under order of the United States Supreme Court, a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit revisited an earlier decision in a campaign finance case challenging limits placed on contributions from political parties to candidates. In light of a recent Supreme Court ruling involving campaign contribution limits, the Eighth Circuit elected to reverse itself in Missouri Republican Party v. Lamb.

The Lamb case stems from a suit filed three years ago by the Missouri Republican Party (and others) seeking to enjoin enforcement of a state statute that limited the amount of cash and in-kind contributions that political parties may make to a candidate for public office. The Party contended that the limit on how much it could donate to its candidates curbed the right of free speech. Additionally, the Party argued that a state law already existed prohibiting earmarking agreements and therefore adequately addressed the State’s concern that wealthy donors would skirt the state’s limits on individual donations by giving large amounts to the political parties with the unspoken understanding that the money would go to a particular candidate.

The district court ruled against the Party. On appeal, the Eighth Circuit reversed and remanded the case, ordering that the injunction be entered. The state of Missouri appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which vacated the circuit court’s decision and directed it to reconsider the case in light of a recent Supreme Court ruling in a similar case coming from Colorado.

In Federal Election Commission v. Colorado Republican Federal Campaign Commission, the Supreme Court held that political parties are granted no greater level of review than individuals or PACs and that it is not unconstitutional for a state to limit the amount of money a party spends in coordination with a candidate. The Court legitimized the state’s concern about avoiding individual donor limits when it concluded that the "earmarking provision would reach only the most clumsy attempts to pass contributions through to candidates."

On remand, the Eighth Circuit found persuasive the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Colorado case, noting that "it is not necessary for the state to show that circumvention is actually occurring in Missouri, for the factual record in Colorado II suffices to justify Missouri’s conclusion that means other than its earmarking prohibition are necessary to prevent circumvention." The court did, however, limit its holding, like that of Colorado II, to contributions made in coordination with the candidate, stating that the "Missouri Republican Party may ‘spend money in support of a candidate without legal limit so long as it spends independently.’"

For more information about campaign finance and the First Amendment, please refer to Supreme Court Rejects First Amendment Challenge to Party Spending Limits, which discusses the constitutional implications of restrictions on political speech as viewed under the Senate’s failed attempt to enact campaign finance reform through the McCain-Feingold bill.

November 8, 2001
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