Surely no one is surprised that the Alabama Democratic Conference is challenging the new PAC to PAC contribution ban in federal court. The new rules would require a complete overhaul of the way ADC does business.
The lawsuit claims that last year's amendment to Alabama's Fair Campaign Practices Act is a violation of ADC's First Amendment rights and of the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965. The lawsuit asks that a federal judge bar Strange and others from enforcing the amendments.
ADC's claims that under the new law the group cannot receive contributions from political action committees such as the Alabama Democratic Party and Alabama Education Association. It also makes it illegal for ADC to associate with like-minded groups “and expend or receive funds so that the associated groups can more effectively petition the government for redress of their grievances, and associate to persuade and encourage voters to cast ballots for their choice.”
Also under the new law, the lawsuit states, it is illegal for the ADC to receive contributions the principal campaign committees of candidates “wishing to associate with the ADC and to communicate with and encourage participation by black voters.”
As far as I can tell from public records, the bulk of ADC's contributions come from Democratic candidates, other PACs and the Alabama Democratic Party. A candidate who wants to speak at an ADC meeting has to pay, a candidate who wants help from ADC for GOTV has to pay, if the Alabama Democratic Party wants help from ADC for GOTV they have to pay — it seems backwards if the goal is supporting like-minded candidates and helping them get their message out.
Those payments, coming as they do from other campaign committees or PACs, are now prohibited. For ADC and organizations like it (Alabama New South Coalition is in a similar position) to survive under the new rules, they must change their philosophy and begin raising the bulk of their money directly from individuals and/or corporations.
In short, the new PAC to PAC ban requires organizations like ADC to morph from gatekeepers who take in money from candidates and parties to advocates who take contributions from like-minded individuals and either give it to candidates who support their goals or expend it directly on activities (like GOTV for those candidates) to further their goals. That's a huge transformation and it's not clear that ADC has the flexibility to make it … so they're trying to get the new rules overturned.
PAC to PAC transfers have routinely been used to obscure the source of campaign funds and make it virtually impossible for citizens or anyone else to “follow the money” and see who is supporting candidates or elected officials. The ban is long overdue.
I have no idea whether the ADC's case has legal merit. Who can tell in this post Citizens United judicial climate where money equates to Constitutionally protected free speech? What I do know is that prohibiting PAC to PAC transfers of campaign money makes it easier for ordinary citizens and the press to see how money influences Alabama government. Information is power, and putting more of it in the hands of the people is good for democracy.