- Legal Center Joins Voting Rights Litigation in South Carolina & Florida
- Legal Center Files Again in Defense of Texas Campaign Finance Laws
- Legal Center Urges IRS to Enforce Tax Laws Despite Pressure from GOP Senators
- American Future Fund’s Attempt to Evade Candidate “Soft Money” Ban Challenged by Legal Center
- Another Attempt to Evade Campaign Finance Law Challenged by Legal Center
- Legal Center Executive Director Speaks at NCSL Legislative Summit in Chicago
- Congressional Forum on Voting Rights Requests Statement of Legal Center Executive Director
Legal Center Joins Voting Rights Litigation in South Carolina & Florida
In July, the Campaign Legal Center joined the efforts underway in two cases fighting to protect the right to vote. Legal Center attorneys are now participating in a challenge to Florida’s voter purge efforts, and in an effort to keep a voter ID law in South Carolina, which the Justice Department found did not meet Voting Rights Act requirements, from going into effect.
“The right to vote is a fundamental right. Both of these cases are about protecting the right of every American to cast a ballot and choose the individuals who will represent them in government,” said J. Gerald Hebert, Legal Center Executive Director. “In both cases we are seeing state government actions that would disenfranchise minority voters at vastly disproportionate rates.”
Hebert is serving as co-counsel to several groups challenging Florida’s attempts to purge voters off its rolls. Florida announced that it had prepared a purge list of 182,000 people allegedly ineligible to vote. The State urged local supervisors of elections to remove voters whose names appeared on the list, despite federal law prohibiting systematic voter registration purges within 90 days of an election. When it was discovered that the list was hopelessly flawed, Florida backpedaled and admitted that the list is riddled with errors and should not be used. The Legal Center and its clients have filed a federal lawsuit in the Southern District of Florida, styled Arcia v. Detzner, to restore the rights of eligible voters wrongfully purged by Florida’s flawed list and to prevent a second purge attempt by the State in advance of the fall Election.
Legal Center attorneys will also participate in South Carolina v. United States. South Carolina is seeking approval of its voter ID law, which the Department of Justice has concluded fails to meet the requirements of the Voting Rights Act. The Legal Center will serve as co-counsel with the ACLU for a group of Intervenors who will be harmed if the voter ID law is allowed to take effect. The South Carolina case goes to trial before a three judge court in Washington, DC, on August 27.
Legal Center Files Again in Defense of Texas Campaign Finance Laws
On August 3, the Campaign Legal Center filed an amicus brief in a Texas Appeals Court to defend the constitutionality of Texas’s campaign finance laws in Texas Democratic Party, et al. v. King Street Patriots, et al. The case is an appeal of a Texas district court decision upholding these laws, as the Legal Center had urged in an earlier amicus brief.
“The District Court saw right through the King Street Patriots’ unsubstantiated claims and we are confident that the Court of Appeals will come to the same conclusion and uphold the laws,” said Tara Malloy, Legal Center Senior Counsel. “This case is part of a wave of litigation across the country attempting to overturn a host of state campaign finance laws in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. But like in many of the other challenges, the plaintiffs here overreach and attempt to argue that Citizens United implicitly invalidated corporate contribution restrictions — an argument completely unsupported by the law.”
The Texas Democratic Party filed an action against the King Street Patriots, alleging that the non-profit 501(c)(4) corporation made in-kind contributions to the state Republican Party in violation of Texas’s restriction on corporate political contributions, and failed to register as a “political committee” and comply with state disclosure law. The King Street Patriots, in response, filed a broad counterclaim challenging the constitutionality of numerous provisions of Texas campaign finance law.
The District Court granted summary judgment to the Texas Democratic Party and dismissed the counterclaim, allowing the original Texas Democratic Party action to move forward on a separate track seeking damages and declaratory and injunctive relief in connection to the alleged violations of state campaign finance law.
To read the brief filed by the Legal Center, click here.
To read the summary judgment opinion of the district court, click here.
Legal Center Urges IRS to Enforce Tax Laws Despite Pressure from GOP Senators
On August 9, the Campaign Legal Center joined Democracy 21 in urging the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to stand fast in the face of partisan political pressure from a number of Republican Senators who are warning the agency not to enforce tax laws against 501(c)(4) organizations that are secretly pouring tens of millions of dollars into candidate attack ads nationwide.
In a letter to IRS Commissioner Douglas H. Shulman and Director of Exempt Organizations Lois Lerner, the Legal Center and Democracy 21 emphasized that the agency should “investigate and take appropriate enforcement action against” the groups currently abusing the tax code for partisan politicking and to set down clear guidelines for eligibility for the privileged tax status as a “social welfare” organization.
“This is a blatant effort to intimidate and bully the IRS into not doing its job of enforcing our tax laws in the face of rampant abuse by shadow political committees, dodging taxes and hiding their deep-pocket funders behind 501(c)(4) tax status,” said J. Gerald Hebert, Executive Director of the Campaign Legal Center. “We encourage the IRS to ignore this partisan political pressure and press on with enforcing the laws on the books and issuing clear guidelines regarding eligibility for 501(c)(4) tax status to stop the abuse of a privileged tax-exempt status.”
The Senators’ letter was sent in response to last month’s IRS correspondence announcing that it “will consider proposed changes” in eligibility regulations for section 501(c)(4) tax-exempt groups. The tax status has been widely misused by organizations that have spent millions of dollars on political advertising in battleground states.
To read the full letter sent today to the IRS, click here.
American Future Fund’s Attempt to Evade Candidate “Soft Money” Ban Challenged by Legal Center
On August 3, the Campaign Legal Center, joined by Democracy 21, filed comments urging the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to reject an attempt by American Future Fund (AFF) to utilize candidates and their committees to solicit “soft money” contributions through joint fundraising efforts with the 501(c)(4), super PACs and related entities.
In Advisory Opinion Request 2012-19, AFF asked the FEC whether it may engage in joint fundraising efforts in various combinations with a list of political entities including the authorized campaign committees of federal candidates in direct violation of the federal law.
“An opinion permitting candidate-authorized joint fundraising committees to solicit and receive unlimited contributions would effectively gut candidate contribution limits,” said Legal Center Senior Counsel Paul S. Ryan. “Candidate-authorized joint fundraising committees such as the Obama Victory Fund 2012 and Romney Victory Inc. would be able to add super PACs like Priorities USA Action and 501(c)(4) groups like Crossroads GPS to their rosters and solicit $1 million, $10 million or larger contributions from corporations, unions and other special interests—every penny of which could be spent advocating the election or defeat of President Obama and Mitt Romney.”
To read the comments, click here.
Another Attempt to Evade Campaign Finance Law Challenged by Legal Center
On August 6, the Campaign Legal Center, joined by Democracy 21, filed comments urging the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to reject an attempt by National Defense Committee (NDC) to avoid registering as a political committee and revealing its donors if it runs a series of advertisements expressly advocating the election or defeat of federal candidates. The 501(c)(4) organization submitted an advisory opinion request (AOR 2012-27) proposing a series of advertisement scripts that clearly meet the definition of “express advocacy” and then asked the Commission whether it intends to enforce the regulation defining “express advocacy” (11 C.F.R. § 100.22(b)), implying that it is no longer valid but offering no credible legal argument to back up the claim.
“The legal argument offered by NDC is based on outdated court decisions. NDC ignores recent decisions related to the law and neglects altogether to mention the Supreme Court’s decision in Wisconsin Right to Life, in which the court defined the ‘functional equivalent of express advocacy’ using a definition nearly identical to the regulation NDC argues the FEC should not enforce,” said Paul S. Ryan, Campaign Legal Center Senior Counsel. “This is just the latest in a recent rash of filings with the FEC and in the courts attempting to undermine the modest disclosure provisions still in effect. Clearly this effort reveals that there are some people and organizations out there looking to spend a lot of money to pick winners and losers in our elections without revealing their identities to American voters.”
This filing by the Campaign Legal Center and Democracy 21 urged the Commission to advise NDC that it will continue to enforce section 100.22(b), that a number of the proposed ads do in fact constitute express advocacy, that several of its proposed donation requests constitute solicitations of contributions, and that NDC has failed to provide the Commission with sufficient information to determine whether NDC will need to register as a political committee.
To read the comments filed today by the Campaign Legal Center and Democracy 21, click here.
Legal Center Executive Director Speaks at NCSL Legislative Summit in Chicago
On August 7, Legal Center Executive Director J. Gerald Hebert spoke at a summit in Chicago hosted by the National Conference of State Legislatures. Hebert served on the “Redistricting 2012 Legal Panel,” which focused on the 2010 redistricting cycle and the wave of litigation that followed. Hebert was joined on the panel by Jason Torchinsky, of Holtzman Vogel Josefiak PLLC. Law professor Justin Levitt of Loyola University Law School moderated the panel.
Congressional Forum on Voting Rights Requests Statement of Legal Center Executive Director
On July 30, Legal Center Executive Director J. Gerald Hebert provided a statement to a Congressional Voting Rights Forum convened in Houston, Texas at Texas Southern University’s Thurgood Marshall School of Law. Mr. Hebert’s statement was adapted from his closing argument last month in State of Texas v. Holder (D.D.C.) — a case in which the State of Texas seeks Voting Rights Act approval of its controversial photo ID law. The forum, “The Right to Vote: Foundation of America” was convened by Rep. Charles A. Gonzalez (D-TX), Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Elections, and other Members of Congress.
To view the statement Mr. Hebert provided, click here.