CLC Update April 12, 2013

  1. New Litigation Summary from CLC Chronicles Rush of Challenges to Campaign Finance Laws
  2. Stephen Colbert Assists in Dedication of Ham Rove memorial Conference Room at Campaign Legal Center
  3. Voting Rights Act Bailouts Continue While Supreme Court Weights Act’s Constitutionality
  4. Watchdogs Question Whether President Obama is Complying with Ethics in Government Act
  5. CLC Senior Counsel Participates in State Department Delegation to Egypt
  6. Legal Center President Participates in “Lessons of Watergate” Conference
  7. Legal Center Executive Director Joins George Washington Law Panel Discussion Previewing Legally Significant Issues in Shelby County v. Holder


New Litigation Summary from CLC Chronicles Rush of Challenges to Campaign Finance Laws

Emboldened by the judicial activism of the conservative majority on the U.S. Supreme Court, ideological and interest group opponents of campaign finance regulation have brought an unprecedented number of cases in the last few years to challenge campaign finance laws at the federal, state and municipal levels.  On April 9, the Legal Center released an updated summary of that litigation to facilitate keeping track of the long and growing list of cases.

While the trend of recent decisions upholding campaign finance laws is encouraging, the Legal Center’s new litigation summary attests to the enormous volume of legal challenges that are still active.  Given the resources of anti-reform forces and the unpredictability of the Supreme Court on campaign finance issues, it will be necessary to remain vigilant in tracking and participating in litigation in the lower courts in 2013 and coming years.

To read the Legal Center’s updated litigation summary, click here

The most recent update of the litigation summary is always available on the Legal Center website’s Court Case of Interest page between the active and past cases.


Stephen Colbert Assists in Dedication of Ham Rove Memorial Conference Room at Campaign Legal Center

On March 21, the Campaign Legal Center officially dedicated the Ham Rove Memorial Conference Room, with an assist from comedian Stephen Colbert, in order to meet the sole condition for accepting a $136, 852.41 from the Ham Rove Memorial Fund. The popular host of Comedy Central’s Colbert Report provided videotaped remarks for the occasion and personally donated a life-sized portrait of himself, which now hangs at the Legal Center.  

The Ham Rove Memorial Fund was created by Mr. Colbert with money he raised though his Colbert Super PAC. Legal Center President Trevor Potter, through his private law practice, was a frequent guest on the show serving as Mr. Colbert’s attorney and explaining the intricacies of campaign finance and tax law.

"Stephen Colbert did an amazing job of distilling the complexities of Super PACs and 501(c)(4)s into something that the general public could instantly grasp," Legal Center President Trevor Potter said before unveiling Colbert's portrait at the event. "That coverage did more to educate the American public on the fallout from the Citizens United decision, secret money in campaigns, and the problems with the FEC's and IRS's non-enforcement of the laws, than anything else in the last election cycle."

The Colbert Report was awarded with a prestigious Peabody Award for segments of the show related to the Super PAC and the nation’s completely dysfunctional campaign finance system in the wake of the Supreme Court’s controversial Citizens United decision and a series of failures by regulatory agencies, including the Federal Election Commission and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). 

To watch the dedication speech taped for the occasion by Stephen Colbert, click here.

To watch the Colbert Super PAC segments, featuring Trevor Potter, which the earned the Colbert Report a Peabody Award, click here.


Voting Rights Act Bailouts Continue While Supreme Court Weighs Act’s Constitutionality

On March 20, a proposed consent judgment and decree was presented to a three-judge court in Washington, DC, granting a Voting Rights Act bailout to the City of Wheatland, California.  If approved, Wheatland will add to the growing list of state or local governments to bailout from the preclearance provisions of the Voting Rights Act.  Those provisions known as Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act are being challenged in a case currently being weighed by the U.S. Supreme Court in Shelby County v. Holder.  Numerous critics of Section 5 argued in briefs to the court that the bailout process was far too arduous and cost-prohibitive, neither of which is true.  Earlier this year, Brown’s Valley Irrigation District (CA) bailed out, as did the State of New Hampshire. In addition to Wheatland, five other local governments (the City of Falls Church, VA, and California’s Yuba County Water Agency, North Yuba Water District, Linda Water District and Linda Fire District) now have bailout lawsuits pending in the DC Court.

“The continuing string of successful bailouts makes a mockery of the arguments that the bailout process is illusory, too arduous and too expensive. Further, these bailouts prove that the coverage formula self-tailors, and therefore Section 5 coverage adjusts to current needs required to protect the franchise,” said Campaign Legal Center Executive Director J. Gerald Hebert, who serves as legal counsel for the California jurisdictions, the State of New Hampshire, and the City of Falls Church in his capacity as a solo practitioner. 

To read the joint motion to enter consent judgment and decree, click here

To read the proposed consent judgment and decree, click here.

The Campaign Legal Center filed a friend of the Court brief discussing bailout in Shelby County v. Holder.  To read the brief, click here.


Watchdogs Question Whether President Obama is Complying with Ethics in Government Act

On March 13, the Campaign Legal Center joined Democracy 21 in asking President Obama whether his involvement with Organizing for Action (OFA) is consistent with the statutory ban on the solicitation of gifts by the President and executive branch officials.  In a letter, citing numerous media accounts of OFA and its ties to the President and his 2012 campaign, the watchdog groups questioned whether the President’s involvement with the organization contravenes the Ethics in Government Act and its explicit ban on the soliciting of gifts by executive branch officials. 

“The unprecedented use of OFA as a tax-exempt organization to accept unlimited contributions and to serve as what appears to be an arm of the executive branch is not the hope and change touted by then-Senator Obama in 2008,” said J. Gerald Hebert, Campaign Legal Center Executive Director.   “Instead it represents yet another example of the race to the bottom in political fundraising that we have seen following Citizens United.” 

The letter outlines in detail for the President the “multiple factors” that suggest that OFA’s role as “a private-sector arm” of the Administration may well contravene the solicitation ban of the Ethics in Government Act. 

The letter urges the President to shut down OFA with all due haste.

To read the the Campaign Legal Center's press release, click here.

To read the full letter sent by Democracy 21 and the Campaign Legal Center, click here.


CLC Senior Counsel Participates in State Department Delegation to Egypt

In mid-March, CLC Senior Counsel Paul S. Ryan participated in a U.S. delegation to Egypt hosted by the nonprofits Legacy International and the U.S. Association of Former Members of Congress, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.  Joining him on the delegation were two former Members of Congress, Scott Klug (R-WI), Public Affairs Director at Foley & Lardner and Larry LaRocco (D-ID), Policy Director at Brownstein/Hyatt/Farber/Shreck, along with Legacy International’s Vice President of Professional Programs, Marlene Ginsberg.  The delegation was part of Legacy International’s Legislative Fellows Program, intended to provide delegates with the opportunity to exchange views with Egyptians of different backgrounds and increase delegates’ understanding of the governmental systems of Egypt.  Over ten days, the delegation met with a broad array of political actors, including the Speaker of Egypt’s upper chamber of parliament, Mr. Ahmed Fahmy, leadership of Egypt’s most prominent political parties, academics, students at Cairo University, political consultants, journalists, businessmen, U.S. diplomats and young revolutionaries who were in Tahrir Square early in 2011 when the regime of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was overthrown.

Ryan’s trip to Egypt was part of a longer-running CLC international cultural/political exchange with North Africa and the Middle East facilitated by Legacy International and the State Department.  Last fall, the Legal Center hosted a group of Legacy International delegates from the region for a discussion of money in U.S. elections.  Later this month, CLC looks forward to hosting an exchange delegate from Libya full-time for 12 days through the same program.


Legal Center President Participates in “Lessons of Watergate” Conference

On March 14, Legal Center President Trevor Potter participated as a panelist in “The Lessons of Watergate” conference hosted by Common Cause at the National Press Club in Washington. Potter’s plenary session panel, “Democracy in Crisis Revisited,” discussed whether the “unbridled influence and abuse of power” had come full circle since Watergate, identified current problems and discussed the next generation of reform.  The panel, moderated by former Deputy Assistant Attorney General Spencer Overton, also featured pollster and political strategist Celinda Lake, and Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights president Wade Henderson.


Legal Center Executive Director Joins George Washington Law Panel Discussion Previewing Legally Significant Issues in Shelby County v. Holder

On March 12, Legal Center Executive Director J. Gerald Hebert participated in a panel discussing the significance of Shelby County v. Holder, a pending Supreme Court challenge to Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, sponsored by the George Washington Political Law Society. Other panelists included Abigail Thernstrom, vice-chair of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, Michael Carvin, a partner at the law firm Jones Day, and Dara Lindenbaum, associate counsel with The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.