A federal appeals court ruled Wednesday that free-spending political groups can lose the right to make unlimited expenditures in certain situations. A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit ruled in Vermont Right to Life v. Sorrell that an anti-abortion, state-level super PAC was not “functionally distinct” enough from a sister committee that gives cash to political candidates and parties. As a result, the court found that the ostensibly separate group may not have been acting independently and can be subject to Vermont’s campaign finance caps. Vermont Right to Life Committee splits its political activities into two arms: the VRLC political committee and the VRLC fund for independent political expenditures.
The independent fund operates like a federal super PAC, making unlimited but independent expenditures on behalf of candidates. The PAC gives contributions directly to candidates.
Federal courts and the Federal Election Commission have acknowledged that such an arrangement is permitted, but the two types of committees can’t coordinate with candidates and committees and cannot mix funds.
In Wednesday’s opinion (posted here), Judge Christopher Droney concluded for a unanimous panel that the two VRLC committees were “enmeshed financially and organizationally” — sharing the same staff and often spending money together.
Full Article: Court: Super PAC not independent enough – POLITICO.com.