BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — A super PAC supporting Republican U.S. Sen. David Vitter filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday, challenging the state's donor limits on political action committees as an unconstitutional restriction on political speech.
The Fund for Louisiana's Future is asking a New Orleans-based federal judge to throw out Louisiana's cap on contributions, which is $100,000 for each election cycle.
If successful, the decision could boost Vitter's campaign for governor in 2015 by allowing his supporters to donate within limits to his campaign account and then pour even larger amounts of cash to an outside group pushing his candidacy.
The lawsuit claims the Louisiana limit on PAC donations doesn't comply with federal court rulings, including the 2010 Citizens United decision from the U.S. Supreme Court that stripped away restrictions on contributions and how outside groups can spend their money.
Super PACs can raise and spend unlimited funds to help candidates at the federal level.
"This case is about freedom of speech and political participation," said Charlie Spies, treasurer for the pro-Vitter PAC.
Louisiana's ethics board, which oversees state campaign finance laws, refused last month to jettison the state cap, saying it lacked jurisdiction to declare a state law unenforceable or unconstitutional.
Ethics board members advised Spies either to seek a court ruling on the constitutionality of the limit or ask the Legislature for a change in the law.
The lawsuit names as defendants the Louisiana Board of Ethics and each of its members.
The Fund for Louisiana's Future was created last year to raise money to independently advocate for Vitter, before he announced he was running for governor. It reported raising $1.5 million through the end of last year.
The lawsuit says donors have been held to Louisiana's $100,000 limit, though they want to give more. The lawsuit says Donald "Boysie" Bollinger, a prominent GOP campaign contributor and shipbuilding company owner, wants to donate at least $125,000 to the PAC, but cannot because of the state restriction.
Fines for violating the current cap on PAC donor limits in Louisiana run up to $1,000 per violation. The PAC "is unwilling to expose itself to the legal consequences that will likely result from its accepting contributions in excess of the statutory limit," the lawsuit says.
"Therefore, the chilling effect on Plaintiff's First Amendment rights to free speech and association is an actual, ongoing and irreparable constitutional injury," the lawsuit says.