Federal Election Commission v. National Right to Work Committee

PETITIONER: Federal Election Commission
RESPONDENT: National Right to Work Committee
LOCATION: Perry Township Metropolitan School District

DOCKET NO.: 81-1506
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1981-1986)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit

CITATION: 459 US 197 (1982)
ARGUED: Nov 01, 1982
DECIDED: Dec 13, 1982

ADVOCATES:
Charles Nevett Steele - on behalf of the Petitioners
Richard H. Mansfield, III - on behalf of the Respondents

Facts of the case

Question

Media for Federal Election Commission v. National Right to Work Committee

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - November 01, 1982 in Federal Election Commission v. National Right to Work Committee

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - December 13, 1982 in Federal Election Commission v. National Right to Work Committee

Warren E. Burger:

The judgment and opinion of the Court in Federal Election Commission against the National Right to Work Committee will be announced by Justice Rehnquist.

William H. Rehnquist:

This case is here on writ of certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

For more than 75 years, Congress has tried to prevent corruption in federal election by passing laws limiting the ways that corporations and labor unions can spend money in those elections.

In this case, we are asked to decide whether these election laws were violated by a nonprofit corporation that solicited political contributions from about 270,000 people.

When all the various provisions and exceptions of the Federal Election laws are followed through, it turns out that nonprofit corporations can solicit political contributions but only from members of the corporation.

We decide in this case that the corporation involved here, the National Right to Work Committee has violated these laws by soliciting contributions from people who were not its members.

The company had said in its corporate charter that it had no members at all.

It never held membership meetings and the people it solicited didn't take part in the operations of the company.

We conclude that Congress required a closer connection than this for someone to qualify as a member of the corporation.

The company also argued that Congress violated the First Amendment when it forbad nonprofit corporations from soliciting nonmembers since this prevented it from associating members of the public.

While the constitution protects the freedom to associate, our past decisions have also held that Congress may restrict this freedom in certain ways providing that those ways have a reasonable justification for doing that.

In this case, a completely adequate justification is provided by the need to prevent the political corruption that might result from use of financial resources of corporations and labor unions in the election process.

Because of our view of the meaning Congress' membership requirement, we reverse the judgment of Court of Appeals which it decided that Congress intended a much broader definition of the term.

Warren E. Burger:

Thank you Justice Rehnquist.