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U.S. Supreme Court

FEC v. National Right to Work Comm., 459 U.S. 197 (1982)

Federal Election Commission v. National Right to Work Committee

No. 81-1506

Argued November 1, 1982

Decided December 13, 1982

459 U.S. 197


The Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971, 2 U.S.C. § 441b(a), prohibits corporations and labor unions from making contributions or expenditures in connection with federal elections. The section, however, permits some participation by unions and corporations in the federal electoral process by allowing these organizations to establish and pay the expenses of "separate segregated funds" which may be used for political purposes during federal elections. The Act restricts the operations of such segregated funds in several respects. Of most relevance here, 2 U.S.C. §§ 441b(b)(4)(A) and 441b(b)(4)(C) provide that a corporation without capital stock may solicit contributions to a fund it has established only from "members" of the corporation. During 1976, respondent National Right to Work Committee (NRWC), a corporation without capital stock, solicited some 267,000 persons for contributions to a separate segregated fund that it sponsored. Petitioner Federal Election Commission determined that NRWC's solicitation violated § 441b(b)(4)(C), because the persons it had solicited were not its members. Among other things, NRWC's solicitation letters did not mention membership, its articles of incorporation disclaim the existence of members, and members play no part in the operation or administration of the corporation.


1. The persons solicited by NRWC were insufficiently attached to the corporation to qualify as members under § 441b(b)(4)(C). This interpretation of the Act does not raise constitutional difficulties. Pp. 459 U. S. 201-207.

2. The First Amendment associational rights asserted by NRWC are overborne by the interests Congress has sought to protect in enacting § 441b. The provision marks the culmination of a careful legislative adjustment of the federal electoral laws to prevent both actual and apparent corruption, and reflects a legislative judgment that the special characteristics of corporations require prophylactic measures. Pp. 207-211.

214 U.S.App.D.C. 215, 665 F.2d 371, reversed.

REHNQUIST, J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court.

Page 459 U. S. 198

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