WI Right to Life State Political Action Comm. v. Barland, No. 11-2623 (7th Cir. 2011)Annotate this Case
In anticipation of 2010 elections, the group challenged Wisconsin's "total of $10,000 in any calendar year" limit on individual contributions to state and local candidates, political parties, and political committees. WIS. STAT. 11.26(4). They sought an injunction. The district court held that abstention was appropriate pending resolution a state supreme court case concerning campaign-finance rule GAB 1.28, which expanded the scope of political speech subject to Wisconsin’s regulatory regime. After the November 2010 elections nine state senators faced recall elections. The district court again denied an injunction that would have allowed the group to raise unlimited funds during the recalls. A motions panel held that the First Amendment challenge was likely to succeed and issued an injunction pending appeal. The Seventh Circuit vacated the abstention order, and remanded for entry of a permanent injunction. The constitutionality of section 11.26(4) does not depend on whether GAB 1.28 survives review; it is unconstitutional to the extent that it limits contributions to committees engaged solely in independent spending for political speech. Independent expenditures do not pose a threat of actual or apparent quid pro quo corruption, the only governmental interest strong enough to justify restrictions on political speech.