August 25, 2023
Contact: James Bopp, Jr.
Cell Phone 812/243-0825; Phone 812/232-2434; Fax 812/235-3685; [email protected]
New Mexico – On August 17, 2023, a federal court ruled in favor of the Republican Party of New Mexico and other parties (“NMGOP”) concerned with the right to engage in political speech, including by making and accepting political contributions.
New Mexico law strictly limited contributions from state political parties to county political parties and to candidates for office, as follows:
- $5,500 limit on contributions from a state political party to county political parties;
- $5,500 limit on contributions from a political party to its candidates or candidates' political committees;
- $11,000 limit on contributions from a political party to its governor candidates' political committees.
The district court judge declared these limits unconstitutional. The court found that New Mexico failed to show that these limits properly served the constitutionally-required anti-quid pro quo corruption interest or the interest in preventing circumvention of other, legal limits.
The court noted, as NMGOP had argued, that because individual donors and individual candidates are removed from the contributions a state party makes to a county party, such contributions carry little risk of quid pro quo corruption. It also found that New Mexico's state-party-to-candidate limit was far lower not only than limits previously upheld by the Supreme Court, but also the vast majority of other states' limits, and that New Mexico failed to show that it properly considered the cost to run a campaign.
Moreover, the judge found that administrative expenses associated with independent expenditures—constitutionally protected campaign-related expenditures, made without coordinating with a candidate or a candidate's committee—are exempt from New Mexico's contribution limits.
This opinion follows litigation lasting over a decade, in which the court had also prohibited New Mexico from enforcing its contribution limits for independent expenditures, because the Supreme Court has held that there is no sufficient state interest in regulating such expenditures. The Tenth Circuit upheld this ruling in 2013.
James Bopp, Jr., of The Bopp Law Firm, PC and lead counsel for NMGOP in the case, says: “These rulings constitute an important victory for free speech, protecting the voices of political candidates, parties, and contributors, as required by the First Amendment, over draconian laws that enable political opponents and incumbent politicians to silence them.”