A federal judge for the US District Court for the Western District of Washington [official website] on Thursday issued a preliminary injunction [order, PDF] suspending the imposition of contribution limits in Washington state recall campaigns. Judge Robert Bryan ruled that, given the diminished potential for quid pro quo arrangements typically feared in electoral campaigns, the state failed to demonstrate sufficient grounds on which to extend to recall efforts its otherwise legitimate interest in preventing corruption or the appearance thereof. As such, Bryan found that the state's law capping contributions to recall campaigns at $800 [RCW § 42.17.640(3) text] inappropriately curbs individuals' First Amendment rights to campaign speech. The case stems from an effort to recall Pierce County Assessor-Treasurer Dale Washam [official website], which will proceed without being subject to the contribution limit until a full hearing on its constitutionality [AP report] can be held.
In March 2010, the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit [official website] unanimously ruled [JURIST report] that limiting contributions from individuals to independent political advocacy organizations is unconstitutional. The court relied on the Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission [opinion, PDF], which eased restrictions [JURIST report] on political and campaign spending by corporations on First Amendment grounds. Citizens United overturned Section 203 of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA) [text, PDF], which prohibited corporations and unions from using their general treasury funds to make independent expenditures for speech defined as an "electioneering communication" or for speech expressly advocating the election or defeat of a candidate.