Libertarians Want Donations from the Dead

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WASHINGTON -- The Libertarian National Committee claims the Federal Election Commission unfairly restricts political contributions from the dead. The party wants the FEC enjoined from applying limits "to the solicitation, accepting, and spending of decedents' bequests."

The Libertarians say the FEC unfairly applies individual contribution limits to the estates of deceased supporters "whose ideologies they wish to advance when planning their future estate's disbursement." 

"Much of a recent bequest to the Libertarian Party, exceeding seven times the annual federal contribution limit on individual donations to political parties 2 U.S.C. §441i ('the Party Limit') rests beyond the Libertarian Party's immediate reach because the Federal Election Commission applies individual contribution limits to decedents' estates," the party says.

"Moreover, the Party Limit forbids a political party from soliciting bequests that exceed annual contribution limits, even if that party would not draw funds from such bequests exceeding the contribution limits in any given year."

The complaint challenges the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, the 2002 law that limits the amount a person can give to political parties in a calendar year to $25,000.

The Libertarians claim that the law can't lump a person's "testamentary estate" into the definition of the term "person," and adds that the Libertarian Party "is not one of the two parties referenced in the 'Bipartisan' Act's title."

The Libertarians tout themselves as the largest third party in the county, and claims it spends the bulk of its resources getting candidates onto ballots, leaving little left for campaigning. 

"Donors, voters, and prospective political candidates who might be attracted to the party's ideology are nonetheless dissuaded from supporting the party by its lack of resources," the party says. 

It claims that its financial woes could be eased if substantial donations left behind by wealthy deceased donors, such as Raymond Burrington of Knox County, Tenn., were made available to it immediately. 

Instead, the party says it's forced to take annual distributions of $28,500 from the $217,734 Burrington left it. 

"The Party Limit's application to decedents' bequests violates the First Amendment speech and associational rights of the LNC and its supports," the complaint states.

The Libertarians seek declaratory judgment, an injunction and costs.

They are represented by Alan Gura with Gura Possessky of Alexandria, Va.