Opinion PER CURIAM.
Dissenting opinion filed by Circuit Judge WILKEY.
This case calls for construction of the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 (FECA) and its 1974 and 1976 Amendments, 2 U.S.C. § 431 et seq.
I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
A. Agency Agreements
The Federal Election Campaign Act, as amended, imposes limitations on campaign contributions and expenditures by individuals and by various kinds of political committees. Section 441a(d)(3), the provision centrally at issue in this case, provides for campaign spending by State and national committees of the political parties:
Although phrased in restrictive terms, Section 441a(d)(3) is in fact a grant of permission: It permits the national and State committees to make expenditures that would otherwise be prohibited.
As it has done in each campaign since 1976, the Republican National Committee has designated the NRSC as its agent, authorized to make the expenditures permitted to the national committee by Section 441a(d) in all senatorial elections.
Various State committees of the Republican Party have also designated the NRSC as their agent under Section 441a(d). As in the case of the national committee, their agency agreements purport to transfer to the NRSC spending authority conferred under Section 441a(d)(3).
Agency agreements related to 1980 contests purport to authorize the NRSC to spend even larger sums. There are Senate races in 34 States, whose 34 Republican State committees have a composite spending ceiling of $3,487,020.80 under Section
B. Proceedings Before the Federal Election Commission
On May 9 of this year the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission in which it challenged the legality of the agency agreements entered by the NRSC and the various Republican State committees.
The Commission dismissed the complaint. Although it gave no reasoned explanation of its decision, the FEC acted after receipt of a report from its General Counsel.
C. Proceedings Before the District Court
The DSCC sought District Court review of the FEC's action.
II. STANDARD OF REVIEW
The District Court regarded the decision of the FEC as entitled to extreme deference. We approach the matter differently.
Although a court should undertake only "a very limited review of the exercise of the FEC's discretionary decisions," In re Carter-Mondale Reelection Committee, Inc., 642 F.2d 538, 545 (D.C.Cir.1980), we deal in this case, not with a discretionary exercise of Commission power, but with an interpretation of a federal statute. The Supreme Court has long recognized that "the courts are the final authorities on issues of statutory construction" and need not "rubberstamp" administrative decisions that misinterpret a federal statute. SEC v. Sloan, 436 U.S. 103, 118, 98 S.Ct. 1702, 1711, 56 L.Ed.2d 148 (1978) (quoting Volkswagenwerk v. FMC, 390 U.S. 261, 272, 88 S.Ct. 929, 935, 19 L.Ed.2d 1090 (1968), and NLRB v. Brown, 380 U.S. 278, 291, 85 S.Ct. 980, 988, 13 L.Ed.2d 839 (1965)).
We recognize that special deference to an agency's interpretation of its governing statute is often appropriate. Cf. Gelman v. FEC, 631 F.2d 939, 943 (D.C.Cir., 1980). But the Supreme Court has established that an agency's entitlement to deference depends upon the quality of its determinations.
First, the Commission has presented no reasoned explanation of its decision. It merely pronounced that it found "no reason to believe" that the NRSC violated the Act in making expenditures as agent of the national and State committees.
Second, even if we were to accept the analysis of the General Counsel as that of the Commission, we would still encounter a troubling absence of consistent reasoning. On two prior occasions, the first January 19, 1979 and the second June 17, 1979, the FEC upheld the legality of NRSC-State committee agency agreements. In those cases, as in the case at bar, the FEC file apparently included a General Counsel's report recommending approval of the challenged agreements.
In the first case, the General Counsel rested on the absence from the text of Section 441a(d)(3) of an explicit prohibition of agency agreements and on a reading of Section 441a(a)(4) that would permit unlimited transfers of funds from NRSC to the State committees. See First General Counsel's Report, supra, at 4, JA 49.
In the second proceeding he added a new justification, arguing that a recently promulgated regulation, 11 C.F.R. § 110.7, permitted the national committee of a political party to designate any agent for the purpose of making Section 441a(d)(3) expenditures. Because the goal of that regulation was to promote coordination among party committees, the Counsel reasoned that the State committees should also be permitted to designate spending agents under Section 441a(d)(3). See First General Counsel's Report, supra, at 5, JA 50.
The present litigation has evidenced three more changes in the position of either the General Counsel or the Commission. First, and most important, the Commission brief in this court disavowed the heavy reliance that the General Counsel once placed on a provision of 11 C.F.R. § 110.7. See brief for appellee at 9-12. Because the section relied upon, Section 110.7(a)(4), authorizes agents only in connection with presidential campaigns, not congressional contests, the FEC has now conceded that prior citations to the section to sustain the designation of agents in Senate races seriously misconstrued the
In a second significant change, the General Counsel retreated from any substantial reliance on the absence of an express agency prohibition in the text of Section 441a(d)(3). First General Counsel's Report, supra, at 4, JA 49. Third, and finally, the General Counsel's report presented a new argument to justify the legality of agency agreements. Once again relying primarily on Section 441a(a)(4), the Counsel appended the corollary claim that congressional failure to amend that section to prohibit transfers of funds by the NRSC constitutes implicit ratification of the Commission's position. Id. at 8-11, JA 53-56.
These alterations in grounds for the agency's decision do not warrant our rejection of any individual argument proffered by the General Counsel or the Commission. We are prepared to consider each, in its turn. But the Counsel's shifting positions offer no adequate support for a claim that the Commission's position here is a product of thorough consideration, careful deliberation, and secure judgment. We must decide for ourselves whether the action of the Commission was "contrary to law."
III. EXPENDITURE LIMITATIONS UNDER SECTION 441a(d)(3)
The agency agreements executed by the Republican State committees and the NRSC purport to transfer spending authority conferred by Section 441a(d)(3). Our inquiry into the permissibility of such agreements begins with examination of the statute itself.
The relevant language of Section 441a(d)(3) authorizes "the national committee of a political party, or a State committee of a political party, including any subordinate State committee," to make "any expenditure" of up to 2 cents per voting-age resident on behalf of the party's senatorial candidate. The operative terms are plain and precise. There is no suggestion that Congress chose its language loosely. Section 441a(d)(3) not only designates spending limits with mathematical rigor; it also confers authority to reach those limits on two named committees, both clearly identified
It is obvious that the NRSC is neither the "national" nor a "State" committee of the Republican Party within the contemplation of Section 441a(d)(3). Nor do we understand either the FEC or the NRSC to contend that the NRSC qualifies as a "subordinate committee of a State committee," the third kind of committee to which Section 441a(d)(3) refers. Nor, finally, does the statute make reference to any other kind of permissible arrangement by which the State party organizations might convey their spending authority to any other organization. The plain language of the statute thus seems to preclude any arrangement by which the special authority of a named entity is transferred to another.
In its brief as an intervenor in this court, NRSC urges the contrary inference. In so doing, it rehearses an argument invoked by the Commission's General Counsel in an earlier case, the same one on which the General Counsel no longer places substantial reliance. See First General Counsel's Report, supra, at 4, JA 49. According to the NRSC, this court should infer that agency agreements are permissible under Section 441a(d)(3) because the statutory text includes no express prohibition of agency relationships. The NRSC's argument depends for its plausibility on its use of "agency" terminology. The language of Section 441a(d)(3) presumably does not prohibit a State political committee's employment of an agent in the standard legal sense; the failure of the statute to mention agency does not, for example, mean that the State committees may not hire staff authorized to act in their behalf. Against this background of familiar usage, however, it is somewhat misleading to characterize the challenged relationships between the State committees and the NRSC as ones of "agency." The State committees do not, in the role of principal, raise and transfer funds to the NRSC as agent; nor do they give any direction as to how "their" funds ought to be spent. Rather, the NRSC raises and spends money as it sees fit; the State committees interact with the NRSC only in the initial agreement to the arrangement. Thereafter the State committees serve as legal shells. We cannot believe that Congress intended the language of Section 441a(d)(3) to authorize artificial relationships of this kind.
We are buttressed in our reliance on the clear language of Section 441a(d)(3) both by the provision's statutory context and by legislative history. The NRSC and its parallel congressional campaign committees were familiar to the Congress that adopted
Yet the legislative history gives no hint that Congress ever foresaw, much less intended, that delegations of spending authority under Section 441a(d)(3) might be attempted. On the contrary, during the 1974 legislative debates Senator Brock noted with concern that the Act and its proposed Amendments failed to provide more permissive treatment to the congressional campaign committees.
The Senate initially adopted the amendment offered by Senator Brock, but reversed itself five days later.
Thus, no more in the legislative history than in the language of Section 441a(d)(3) do we find support for the kind of transfer of statutory authority at issue in this case.
IV. RELEVANCE OF THE TRANSFER PROVISION
The FEC argues that since Section 441a(a)(4) permits the NRSC to transfer unlimited funds to the State committees, it would be "placing form over substance" to forbid the State committees to designate NRSC as their agent. Brief for appellee at 17. We do not address the question whether NRSC may freely transfer funds to State committees under Section 441a(a)(4), because that issue was not joined before this court. While not conceding the validity of such transfers,
We are not convinced, however, that an outright transfer of funds from NRSC to a State committee would be equivalent to an "agency" relationship in which the agent, NRSC, controls the funds from start to finish — from raising to spending. In the latter situation the State committee may have no voice in the way funds are spent. Nor is this a difference that is obviously without consequence. When the NRSC pays the piper, it will call the tune. The candidate may have little incentive to communicate with the State committee, preferring to deal with a committee of his colleagues that directs the flow of funds.
If funds were actually transferred to the State committees, on the other hand, the committees would be more likely to maintain an active role throughout the campaign. Even if NRSC attempted to direct how transferred funds were to be spent, the State committees would actually make the day-to-day campaign expenditures and might be able to persuade NRSC that funds should be spent differently than the congressional committee envisioned. As State committees assumed responsibility for campaign disbursements, moreover, candidates might confer more closely with those committees and remain more closely in touch with their local party constituents. Since the structure of the Act suggests that Congress intended to increase the role of State and national committees, not of congressional committees, we find these possible differences to be potentially meaningful.
It would be inappropriate for this court to speculate further about the ways in which transfers of funds might differ from agency agreements. The parties have not
WILKEY, Circuit Judge, dissenting:
Like Chief Judge Wright and Judge Ginsburg, I too have read the statute and base my opinion as to the necessary result in this case on its plain language. Unlike my colleagues, however, I do not approach the task of this court as if we are the first called upon to construe this statute; the issue before us is not our construction of the statute de novo, but whether the Commission's interpretation of the statute can be supported on a rational basis so that its conclusion cannot be said to be "contrary to law."
I. STRAIGHT STATUTORY CONSTRUCTION
We start with 2 U.S.C., Ch. 14 — Federal Election Campaigns
The latter of the two above provisions, (d)(3), fulfills one of the two prime objectives of the Federal Election Campaign Act — to place a limit on overall expenditures in campaigns for federal office. For my colleagues this provision is sufficient unto itself to settle the question before us in this case. For me it is not sufficient, because this section alone does not purport to tell us where the money, whose total amount is limited, is coming from.
Subsection (a)(4), far from placing any limitation, specifically provides that the prior limitations in (1) and (2) (persons and multi-candidate political committees) "do not apply to transfers between and among political committees which are national. State, district, or local committees (including any subordinate committee thereof) of the same political party." As will be discussed more fully under IV below, while there are evils associated with large contributions by persons and multi-candidate political committees to candidates for federal office, there are no visible evils associated with the transfer of funds among committees of the same political parties. The contribution limitations as to the original sources have already been applied, and the connection between the recipient federal candidate and the original source of the funds is totally broken and obscured.
So, looking again at subsection (d)(3), we might expect that the national committee
The Senatorial Campaign Committees and the Congressional Campaign Committees of each major political party have proved to be highly successful fund-raisers. The plaintiff Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee does not challenge in this suit that under § 441a(a)(4) either a Senatorial Campaign Committee or a Congressional Campaign Committee of either party can transfer an unlimited amount of money to either that party's national committee or that party's state committee in one of the individual states, and that the money so transferred can be expended on behalf of that party's candidate for either the Senate or the House in a given state — all within the expenditure limit of (d)(3).
However, for reasons which are not obvious in the record and which are immaterial, the Senatorial and Congressional Campaign Committees of both political parties have found it administratively advantageous to make the above-described transfer of funds in an indirect way.
Significantly, and interestingly, this indirect device of appointing the Senatorial or Congressional Campaign Committee as the agent of the national committee, a practice followed by both political parties, is not challenged by the plaintiff Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee here. What is challenged is the exact parallel in direct transfer of funds by the authorization of a state committee to the Senatorial (or Congressional) Campaign Committee to expend funds on behalf of a designated candidate for the Senate or House of that political party.
II. FORM OVER SUBSTANCE
My colleagues say that we are not called upon here to pass upon a transfer case, that
The difference is purely one of form, not substance. It makes absolutely no difference in the scheme of control of campaign expenditures and contributions whether the National Republican Senatorial Committee in Washington writes a check and mails it to the state committee in Louisville, Kentucky, to be expended for the benefit of the Republican nominee for the Senate in the State of Kentucky, or, on the other hand, as is now the practice, the state committee in Louisville, Kentucky, writes a letter to the Senatorial Campaign Committee in Washington authorizing that committee to make expenditures on behalf of the same Republican nominee for the Senate in Kentucky. In either event, the funds expended come from the contributions accumulated by the Senatorial Committee in Washington, those contributions having been duly made in accordance with the limitations of § 441a(a), and expended within the overall limitations of § 441a(d)(3).
It is precisely because to accede to the view argued for by the plaintiff here and espoused by my colleagues would do nothing but exalt form over substance that the Federal Election Commission very sensibly responded in a requested opinion that such delegation of authorized expenditures to the Senatorial or Congressional Campaign Committee of the same party was lawful within the meaning and purpose of the statute. The FEC stated: "Since funds may be transferred between the congressional campaign and the national committee of the same political party without limitation, it is immaterial as to which committee's funds are being expended under 2 U.S.C. § 441a(d)(3)."
According to the majority's view, two things will happen: First, the letters of authorization from the state committees to the National Republican Senatorial Committee will become of no effect and the Senatorial Committee in Washington will immediately start writing checks to each state committee for the amount which it has decided to allocate in support of the Republican Senatorial candidates in those states. Secondly — and this is more than the plaintiffs have asked or bargained for — both the National Committees of the Republican and Democratic parties will immediately be required to stop writing letters of authorization to their respective Senatorial and Congressional Campaign Committees in Washington; instead, the National Committees of both parties will simply have to arrange the direct transfer of funds from their respective Senatorial and Congressional Campaign Committees, as authorized by § 441a(a)(4), and then the National Committees (instead of the Senatorial or Congressional Campaign Committees) will expend those funds within the limits of subsection (d)(3) on behalf of selected candidates for the Senate and House in the states.
The net result of plaintiff Democratic Committee's position prevailing is that not
An obvious question arises: If the respective committees can transfer and spend the money in precise technical compliance with both relevant subsections of the statute, why do not the committees use this form and achieve the same substance? The record is bare of any explanation of why the various committees have followed the current practice, which dates at least from 1976. Both major parties use the method of their respective National Committees authorizing the Senatorial and Congressional Campaign Committees as agents to make expenditures for candidates within the statutory limits. Only the Republicans have seen fit to have their state committees so work with the National Campaign Committees. There may be advantages of economy of scale in expenditures from one source, of available expertise in creating and placing advertisements, in obtaining media exposure, in obtaining credit during the campaign, etc.; the court can only speculate. All we know is that both parties employ the indirect method of expenditure by authorizing the committees in Washington as agents, that it must have some functional advantage, and that the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (which does not act as an agent for Democratic state committees) has taken the trouble to challenge the National Republican Senatorial Committee's actions as agent for Republican state committees.
III. ESTABLISHED PRECEDENT — ACTION AND OPINION
While the advantage of what the intervenor Republican Committee is doing is not obvious from the record, the profound — and grossly unfair — disadvantage of the court sustaining this Democratic Committee challenge at this late hour is undeniably clear. The actions challenged were in accord with the precedent established over the lifetime of the practice of delegation by both the national and state committees, which rest on the same rationale.
(1) In 1976 the Republican National Committee (RNC) designated the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) as its agent to make the expenditures for congressional campaigns permitted under subsection (a)(4) and (d)(3).
(2) Representative Cleveland requested an advisory opinion on the practice, which was specifically approved in Advisory Opinion 1976-108, cited above.
(3) At this time the FEC was engaged in rulemaking, and produced § 110.7 Party Committee Expenditure Limitations (2 U.S.C. § 441a(d)). Regulation § 110.7(a)(4) specifically approves the national committee of a party making any authorized expenditure under § 441a(d) "through any designated agent" in connection with a presidential campaign. No reference was made to a state committee acting through an agent, although both national and state committees are authorized to make expenditures by § 441a(d); the explanation offered is that at that time in 1976 no state committee
(4) In 1978 several Republican state committees followed the practice begun in 1976 by the RNC and designated the intervenor National Republican Senatorial (or Congressional) Committee as an agent to make expenditures for the benefit of congressional candidates. This was challenged in two complaints. In MUR 780
Surely this was amply reassuring precedent for the intervenor NRSC to continue in this campaign year the practice of acting as agent of the RNC and state committees to make expenditures under §§ 441a(a)(4) and (d)(3), a practice which had been validated and sustained by the FEC against every challenge since 1976. In reliance thereon the intervenor NRSC has entered into contracts for campaign activities, with the media and political suppliers, and with employees to serve during the campaign. These are substantial commitments of millions of dollars, which this court now throws into jeopardy and confusion 30 days before the campaign is to end, in spite of four years of precedential rulings contra by the responsible agency, the FEC, confirmed in this specific case by the FEC General Counsel's opinion, the unanimous 6 to 0 vote of the FEC members, and the decision of the District Court.
One minor point perhaps should be noted at this time. While counsel for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee responded in answer to a direct question from the court at oral argument that the plaintiff was "not challenging transfers in this case," yet it has been suggested that neither the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee nor the National Republican Senatorial Committee (nor their respective Congressional Campaign Committees) are "national" committees within the meaning of § 441a(a)(4) authorizing unlimited "transfers between and among committees which are national, State, district, or local committees (including any subordinate committee thereof) of the same political party." We can assume for the disposition of this case, since no party challenges it, that the Senatorial Campaign Committees are within the scope of the "transfer" provision.
IV. TWO PRINCIPAL PURPOSES OF THE FEDERAL ELECTION CAMPAIGN LAWS
It is undisputed that two of the principal objectives of reform in the conduct of federal elections were, first, putting some kind of an overall limit on the horrendously escalating cost of political campaigns, and, secondly, eliminating the pernicious influence of the large campaign contributor over the political candidate or political officeholder.
When we look at the plain language of the statutory scheme, we see that there are overall limits on the expenditures in campaigns for the Senate and the House under § 441a(d)(3). There is no suggestion whatsoever in the plaintiff's argument or in my colleagues' opinion that the practice challenged here in any way is an attempt to or could evade the overall expenditure limitations of subsection (d)(3). It is perfectly clear that whatever funds of the intervenor NRSC, acting as agent of either the Republican National Committee or a state party committee, are expended on behalf of any given Senatorial candidate, those expenditures must be within the overall limits authorized to the RNC or to the state committee, respectively. This is true whether the Senatorial Committee makes the expenditure itself as a result of being designated as an agent of the state or national committee and authorized thereby to make the expenditure, or whether the Senatorial Committee writes a check to either the national committee or the state committee.
Furthermore, accountability for all funds expended on behalf of a given political candidate by any party political committee is placed in the state's party central committee. Regulation § 110.7,
The second principal purpose of campaign reform, limiting contributions in order to eliminate the evil effect of huge contributions influencing candidates or officeholders, is taken care of in § 441a(a), Dollar limits on contributions.
The reason for this Congressional exemption of transfers between political committees of the same party is perfectly obvious: there is no evil to be prevented by barring the free exchange of funds among political committees of the same party. There is no fear of undue influence exerted by a large contributor over the individual candidate or political officeholder, for two reasons: (1) the individual contributions have originally been limited by the contribution limits in the statute; and (2) the political candidate or officeholder does not know who made the contributions to the overall national, state, district, or local committee which generously endows him with funds, or, at least, he does not know who contributed the specific dollars which the individual candidate receives.
Not only is there no evil to be prevented by the limitation which the plaintiff Democratic Committee has persuaded my colleagues to write into the statute, but there are positive benefits to be gained by allowing the free interchange of funds among political committees of the same party, whether by direct transfers or indirectly by authorizing another committee to act as agent in making the expenditures. A party cannot "unduly influence" its own candidate, but by supplying funds for the individual candidate it may instill in the candidate some sense of party loyalty and party responsibility, which is generally recognized to be a beneficial relationship. Certainly to the extent an individual candidate is beholden to his own political party for a substantial portion of his campaign funds, he is much less vulnerable to individual pressure groups who would sway his vote, for good or evil, on certain critical issues.
It should not be overlooked that the funds raised by the committees referred to in subsection (a)(4), whose funds are to be freely transferred, are funds raised from citizens all over the United States. To that extent they are an amalgamation, an expression of support from small contributors. In that respect they are similar to the funds raised through the federal tax process by the check-off on individual income tax returns, which is an expression of national policy preferring funds to be raised as anonymously and in as widespread a fashion as possible. To the extent that these funds can be used freely in individual Senate and House campaigns, we are implementing a definite national policy. The
V. FIRST AMENDMENT CONSIDERATIONS
It is quite apparent from the lengthy Congressional debates in regard to the federal election laws over a period of years that Congress was quite aware of the fact that, in imposing contribution and expenditure limitations, it was legislating in an area of vital First Amendment concerns. If there was any legislator who was not aware of that, he was surely made aware of it by the Supreme Court's decision in Buckley v. Valeo. "The Act's contribution and expenditure limitations operate in an area of the most fundamental First Amendment activities."
There is no need to rehash the extensive Supreme Court analysis on the First Amendment grounds in Buckley. It is clear that the Court held that construction of the Act must be made in light of First Amendment rights, and so must this court's construction here. It is sufficient to point out that the Supreme Court sustained limitations on individual contributions only because the perceived evil of undue influence by large contributors on candidates and officeholders was sufficient to justify these restrictions. At the same time, the Supreme Court struck down the limitations on individual expenditures on behalf of his own individual candidacy, because the use of money by an individual is a form of speech protected by the First Amendment, and there could be no evil of undue influence by one man exercising his First Amendment rights.
Similarly, in the case at bar, there is no visible evil in any "undue influence" by a political party on its own nominated candidate for the Senate or the House.
Mark this well. No person, no group of persons (committee) needs the permission of any Congress or any court to spend money to assist candidates for public office. That is free speech. There can be limitations and regulations as to amounts, methods,
Failure to adhere to accepted standards of reasoned decisionmaking not only undermines public confidence but may actually impair the substantive quality of the Commission's performance. See id. at 1211. It also deprives a reviewing court of any Commission record on which to base a deferential consideration.
Nor do we understand NRSC to suggest in this case that it has made independent expenditures on behalf of candidates, expenditures of the kind the Buckley Court found to be constitutionally protected. And surely no frontal attack has been made by NRSC on the constitutionality vel non of expenditure limitations imposed on party organs.
The statutory standard for judicial review requires the court to overturn a Commission interpretation of its implementing statute which is "contrary to law." Id. § 437g(a)(8)(C). The Federal Election Campaign Act delegates to the Commission especially broad discretion to set election law policy and to draw the meaningful distinctions appropriate to definitions under the election law. E. g., 2 U.S.C. § 437c(b)(1), as amended by Pub.L.No.96-187, § 306(b)(1), 93 Stat. 1355 (1979): "The Commission shall administer, seek to obtain compliance with, and formulate policy with respect to, this Act," (emphasis added); 2 U.S.C. § 431(14) — (15): "The[se] term[s] ... mean ..., as determined by the Commission" (emphasis added).
The penchant of this court to give no deference whatsoever to the responsible agency's interpretation of its role and basic statute has been noted with acerbity by the Supreme Court in Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Corp. v. NRDC, 435 U.S. 519, 98 S.Ct. 1197, 55 L.Ed.2d 460 (1978) and by commentators, e. g., Scalia, "Vermont Yankee: The APA, the D.C. Circuit, and the Supreme Court," 1978 S.Ct.Rev. 345, 358, 371. Deference to the Commission on new issues like this before a new agency gives the agency the chance it needs to make its own interpretation, because it has the responsibility to make its statute work. Power Reactor v. Electricians, 367 U.S. 396, 408, 81 S.Ct. 1529, 1535, 6 L.Ed.2d 924 (1961). Deference to the Commission's view on election law policy and what constitutes compliance seems particularly advised in that events occur very quickly in an election year. The Commission is the expert body charged by Congress with the coherent administration of elections and must, therefore, be competent to reach expeditious and equitable judgments drawing reason out of a melange of vaguely consistent election laws obviously adopted by the process of political compromise on this highly charged political field; it is the Commission which is prepared to read the body of election law as a whole. Moreover, the Commission is self-consciously bipartisan. Congress created a Commission, 2 U.S.C. § 437c (1976), which could make sensitive political decisions cognizant of bipartisan exigencies. Courts should tread lightly on these matters of party politics.
H.R.Rep.No.94-1057 (Conf.Rep.), 94th Cong.2d Sess. 58 (1976) (discussion of 2 U.S.C. §§ 441a(a)(1)(B)-(2)(B)).
The Court went on to validate contribution ceilings, but "[b]y contrast, the First Amendment requires the invalidation of the Act's independent expenditure ceiling, § 608(e)(1), its limitation on a candidate's expenditures from his own personal funds, 608(a), and its ceilings on overall campaign expenditures, § 608(c). These provisions place substantial and direct restrictions on the ability of candidates, citizens, and associations to engage in protected political expression, restrictions that the First Amendment cannot tolerate." (Emphasis added.) Id. at 58-59.
The specific holding of Buckley was, of course, as the majority suggests (maj. op. at n. 27), to invalidate the independent expenditure limitations, not to rule on expenditures of a political party committee — a ruling which, if made, would have left one point of view in the case at bar bereft of any support whatsoever. But surely the language used by the Court, the rationale of sustaining restrictions only where there was an obvious evil to be prevented, is highly relevant to our problem here. Buckley confirms that all of FECA's campaign "contribution and expenditure limitations operate in an area of the most fundamental First Amendment activities." 424 U.S. at 14, 96 S.Ct. at 632.