California Medical Association v. Federal Election Commission

PETITIONER: California Medical Association
RESPONDENT: Federal Election Commission
LOCATION: New York State Thruway

DOCKET NO.: 79-1952
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1975-1981)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

CITATION: 453 US 182 (1981)
ARGUED: Jan 19, 1981
DECIDED: Jun 26, 1981

Charles Nevett Steele -
Rick C. Zimmerman -

Facts of the case


Media for California Medical Association v. Federal Election Commission

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - January 19, 1981 in California Medical Association v. Federal Election Commission

Warren E. Burger:

Thank you, counsel.

The case is submitted.

We'll hear arguments next in California Medical Association against Federal Election Commission.

Mr. Zimmerman, I think you may proceed when you're ready.

Rick C. Zimmerman:

Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court.

This case arises under the Federal Election Campaign Act.

It comes to this Court on appeal from an en banc decision by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals which sustained the validity of the $5000 calendar year limitation on contributions to a political committee.

The case comes here by way of the unique judicial review provisions contained in 2 U.S.C. 437h, which provide for the filing of actions to construe the constitutionality of the Act and for the certification of those actions to the Court of Appeals with ultimate review on appeal in this Court.

Appellants challenged that aspect of the $5000 calendar year limit which restricts the administrative support and unincorporated association may contribute to its political committee.

Appellants claim that the $5000 limit violates the rights under the First Amendment and that the statutory scheme, which allows corporations and labor organizations to contribute unlimited amounts of administrative support to their political committees violates the equal protection rights of Appellants.

The term “administrative support” as used by the parties and the court below refers to anything of value used for the purpose of establishing, administering or soliciting contributions to the political committee.

The Appellant, California Medical Association, is an unincorporated membership organization.

Its membership consists of approximately 25,000 physicians who practice in California.

The CMA sponsors a political action committee known as the California Medical Political Action Committee.

CALPAC receives in kind administrative support from CMA.

CALPAC also receives contributions from physicians who choose to contribute to them.

CALPAC supports candidates who run for federal office among other things.

Appellants, Foster and Rose are members of both CMA and CALPAC.

Dr. Foster is the treasurer of CALPAC and Dr. Rose is a past president of CMA and has been an officer in CALPAC.

William H. Rehnquist:

Mr. Zimmerman, I gather you disagree with the Court of Appeals from the Ninth Circuit as to our jurisdiction in this case.

Rick C. Zimmerman:

Well, this Court does have jurisdiction, Your Honor.

William H. Rehnquist:

Well, do the -- do you agree or disagree with the Court of Appeals' treatment of the jurisdiction?

Rick C. Zimmerman:

Well, I -- I agree with it, Your Honor.

They found that they had jurisdiction to hear the case.

William H. Rehnquist:

Under what section?

Rick C. Zimmerman:

Well, they -- the majority of any event, Your Honor, didn't hear --

William H. Rehnquist:

Well, that's what I mean.

Rick C. Zimmerman:


They initially, of course, I think, convened pursuant to 437h.

However, the -- the majority based its decision to hear the case, en banc at least, not on section 437h but on Rule 35.