Campaign Legal Center Urges Federal Court to Reject Challenge to Wisconsin Restrictions on Coordinated Spending

Today, the Campaign Legal Center submitted an amicus brief to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, to be filed upon leave of the court, in Citizens for Responsible Government Advocates (CRG) v. Barland.  The brief urges the court to reject CRG’s motion to enjoin Wisconsin’s restrictions on the coordination of expenditures between candidates and outside groups.The court has already entered a temporary restraining order blocking enforcement of the law.

CRG wishes to make communications in coordination with three candidates for office in the state, including materials lauding “their backgrounds, their efforts to become politically involved, and their work to further fiscal responsibility in government.”  CRG argues that if it does not expressly advocate the election or defeat of these candidates in its communications, it should be free to coordinate such communications with the candidates without limitation.  But the U.S. Supreme Court specifically rejected this argument in McConnell v. FEC, holding that “there is no reason why Congress may not treat coordinated disbursements for electioneering communications,” i.e., a form of non-express advocacy, “in the same way it treats all other coordinated expenditures.”

“The Supreme Court has long recognized that expenditures coordinated by outside groups with candidates are tantamount to ‘disguised contributions’ made to the candidates themselves,” said Tara Malloy, Campaign Legal Center Senior Counsel.  “The value of a coordinated expenditure as a contribution to a candidate is not eliminated simply by the omission of words of express advocacy.  CRG asks the court to ignore Supreme Court precedent, as well as common sense, to strike down Wisconsin’s restrictions on coordinated spending and allow candidates to direct without limit any communications by outside groups that do not constitute express advocacy.  Candidate contribution limits would become meaningless if this type of coordination were to be sanctioned.”

The Legal Center was assisted in the filing of the amicus brief by Lester A. Pines and Susan Crawford of Cullen Weston Pines & Bach LLP.

To read the brief, click here