CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A federal judge has made it official: A West Virginia law capping donations to independent political action committees at $1,000 is unconstitutional.
U.S. District Judge Thomas Johnston signed the order Tuesday that was proposed last week by Secretary of State Natalie Tennant and the PAC Stay the Course West Virginia. Tennant agreed not to enforce state laws that limit the contributions.
The Stay the Course PAC, as well as corporate and individual contributors who sought to contribute more than $1,000 to the PAC, filed the lawsuit last year against Tennant.
"Upon consultation with attorneys from the Secretary of State's Office and Attorney General's Office, I have come to the conclusion that it is in the best interest of West Virginia taxpayers to cease contesting this lawsuit," Tennant said in a statement released Wednesday.
Independent PACs spend their money without any input from a candidate or a candidate's committee or political party.
The order states that Stay the Course defines itself as an independent PAC, meaning it is not affiliated "in any way with any political party, corporation, membership organization, political candidate, or committee, or any agent or representative of any political candidate."
That doesn't mean independent PACs can't support candidates, though. Last year, for example, Stay the Course supported Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin by purchasing radio and Internet advertisements.
Independent expenditures are defined as "expressly advocating the election or defeat of a clearly identified candidate, and that are not made in concert or cooperation with or at the request or suggestion of such candidate, his or her agents, the candidate's authorized political committee or a political party committee or its agents," according to state law.
Johnston granted a preliminary injunction last year stopping enforcement of the $1,000 contribution limit imposed by state law. That ruling followed the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark Citizens United decision that said corporate and labor union campaign contribution limits violated rights of free speech.