- D.C. District Court Hears Oral Argument in Reformers’ Challenge to FEC Disclosure Rules
- Campaign Legal Center Files Brief in Texas Voter Photo ID Case on Behalf of Minority Voters
- FEC follows Watchdogs Recommendation in Rejecting Tea Party Group’s Request for Disclosure Exemption
- IRS Issues New Guidance on 501(c)(4) Political After Years of Abuse, Pressure from Watchdogs
- Trevor Potter & CLC Board Member Guy Charles Elected to American Law Institute Membership
- Meredith McGehee & Trevor Potter Named to The Hill’s “Top Lobbyists” and Influencers List 2013
- Trevor Potter Named Top Influencer by Campaigns & Elections
- Watchdogs Assure Congress Disclosure Legislation is Constitutional
- Legal Center Hosts Libyan International Exchange Fellow
- Trevor Potter Speaks at the University of California, Irvine Law School
- Tara Malloy Participates in Campaign Finance Panel at Duke Law School
- Legal Center President Joins Panel at University of San Diego
D.C. District Court Hears Oral Argument in Reformers’ Challenge to FEC Disclosure Rules
On October 28, 2013, Judge Amy Berman Jackson of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia heard oral argument in Van Hollen v. FEC, a challenge to a 2007 FEC regulation that improperly narrowed the scope of federal donor disclosure requirements for “electioneering communications.”
The case was brought by Representative Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) in an effort to ensure that the “dark money” outside groups that are becoming increasingly active in federal elections are required to disclose their donors to the public. On March 30, 2012, the district court ruled in favor of Rep. Van Hollen, holding that the FEC regulation was contrary to the clear language of the federal campaign finance statue it purported to implement. On September 18, 2012, however, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the lower court decision, disputing that the federal statute was clear, and holding that the district court should have instead analyzed whether the rule was a reasonable interpretation of the statute under a more deferential mode of judicial review. The case was remanded back to the district court.
The Campaign Legal Center is part of the legal team representing Rep. Van Hollen in this case, which is led by Roger Witten of WilmerHale. The legal team also includes lawyers from WilmerHale, Democracy 21 and Public Citizen.
Campaign Legal Center Files Brief in Texas Voter Photo ID Case on Behalf of Minority Voters
On November 22, Texas voters who would be adversely impacted by the law, civil rights organizations, elected representatives and a Texas county filed a brief opposing the motion of Texas officials to dismiss the consolidated lawsuits against the state's voter photo ID law. Several challenges (including one brought by the United States) have been brought against the Texas voter photo ID law, which is the one of the most restrictive laws in the nation. The cases have been consolidated in the Southern District of Texas in Corpus Christi.
The brief filed by the Campaign Legal Center, which serves as co-counsel in the case, argues that the parties have standing to bring the case and that their complaint adequately states claims under various provisions of federal law that should be allowed to proceed. The complaint filed by the Campaign Legal Center in the case claims that the voter photo ID law (SB 14) violates the 1st, 14th, 15th and 24th Amendments to the Constitution, as well as Section 2 of Voting Rights Act.
To read a copy of the Legal Center’s brief arguing that the motion to dismiss should be denied, click here.
FEC follows Watchdogs Recommendation in Rejecting Tea Party Group’s Request for Disclosure Exemption
On November, 21, the Tea Party Leadership Fund (TPLF) failed to gain the disclosure exemption it sought from the Federal Election Commission (FEC) when the group’s request garnered the votes of only two Republican Commissioners. The votes on two draft advisory opinions ended in 3-2 deadlocks along party lines with newly sworn-in Republican Vice-Chairman Lee E. Goodman recusing himself. The Campaign Legal Center, joined by Democracy 21, filed comments on the initial TPLF request and later on the FEC’s two draft advisory opinions urging the FEC to deny the request for exemption.
The exemption stems from a 1958 Supreme Court decision prohibiting the state of Alabama from compelling the NAACP to disclose its membership list at a time when members of the civil rights organization faced grave dangers in the Jim Crow South.
“It is encouraging that the FEC rejected the outrageous request by the Tea Party Leadership Fund, but it is disappointing that even two Commissioners were willing to go along with the idea that the Tea Party group should be eligible for an exemption originally granted to the imperiled membership of the NAACP in the Jim Crow South,” said Paul S. Ryan, Campaign Legal Center Senior Counsel.
To read the comments filed on November, 20, on the draft opinions, click here.
To read the original comments filed by the Campaign Legal Center and Democracy 21 on October 18, click here.
IRS Issues New Guidance on 501(c)(4) Political After Years of Abuse, Pressure from Watchdogs
On November 26, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) released new guidance on candidate-related political activity by 501(c)(4) tax-exempt social welfare organizations after widespread abuse of the privileged tax status by political groups seeking to hide the identity of their donors. The move comes more than two years after the Legal Center and Democracy 21 petitioned the agency for new regulations and months after the groups along with Public Citizen joined Representative Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) in filing a lawsuit challenging the IRS regulations.
Legal Center Senior Counsel Paul S. Ryan told USA Today that the proposal "provides hope that the IRS is going to shut down a huge loophole that has allowed political organizations to spend hundreds of millions of dollars without disclosing their donors." But he cautioned Reuters that "the devil, of course, will be in the details."
The Legal Center and Democracy 21 originally filed a petition with the Internal Revenue Service on July 27, 2011, arguing that existing IRS regulations permit section 501(c)(4) groups to make far more campaign expenditures than is allowed by the Internal Revenue Code and requesting that the IRS issue new regulations that better enforce the law.
On August 21, 2013, Representative Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), joined by the Legal Center, Democracy 21 and Public Citizen, filed a lawsuit in federal district court in Washington, D.C challenging the IRS regulations that govern eligibility for tax-exempt status as a section 501(c)(4) “social welfare” organization. The existing IRS regulations were adopted more than a half century ago in 1959 and the lawsuit charges that the regulations are contrary to the explicit statutory language of the Internal Revenue Code and to court decisions interpreting the Code.
Under the proposal (REG-134417-13) issued yesterday, candidate-related political activity would be defined as communications that expressly advocate for a clearly identified political candidate or candidates of a political party; communications that clearly identify a candidate or political party and are made within 60 days of a general election (or 30 days of a primary election); and communications expenditures that must be reported to the Federal Election Commission.
Yesterday’s also seeks public comment on the proposal and are unlikely to be implemented in time for the 2014 election.
To read the original petition filed by the Legal Center and Democracy 21 (July 27, 2011), click here.
Trevor Potter & Board Member Guy Charles Elected to American Law Institute Membership
On November 1, Legal Center President, Trevor Potter and board member Guy Charles were elected to Membership in the American Law Institute (ALI). The prestigious legal honor, recognizing those who have made substantial contributions to society and the legal profession, is held by only 3,000 legal professionals across all disciplines.
Trevor Potter & Meredith McGehee Named to The Hill’s “Top Lobbyists” and Influencers List 2013
On October, 30, Legal Center President, Trevor Potter and Policy Director, Meredith McGehee were named in The Hill’s “Top Lobbyist” List for 2013. The Hill annually recognizes top Washington influencers in its list that extends beyond those who actually lobby. Both Mr. Potter and Ms. McGehee were lauded for their work in advocating campaign finance reform.
Trevor Potter Named Top Influencer by Campaigns & Elections
Campaign & Elections magazine named Legal Center President, Trevor Potter one of the top 50 influencers for the 2014 election cycle. Mr. Potter and other Top Influencers will be recognized at a gala event in Washington DC on December 7.
Watchdogs Assure Congress Disclosure Legislation is Constitutional
In a letter sent November 14th to members of the Senate and House, the Campaign Legal Center and Democracy 21 refuted claims by disclosure opponents that campaign finance disclosure laws are unconstitutional violations of First Amendment free speech rights. The letter encouraged Members to pass such legislation with confidence that it would be upheld by the Supreme Court.
The letter documented the fact that since the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision upholding disclosure laws, courts throughout the country have repeatedly upheld the constitutionality of laws requiring disclosure by outside groups that make expenditures in candidate elections.
“It is important that Members understand the courts’ support of disclosure as Congress considers how to tackle the flood of dark money that is being spent against Republicans and Democrats alike by secret political hit squads seeking to dominate the political system without public accountability,” said Legal Center President Trevor Potter.
To read the letter, click here.
Legal Center Hosts Libyan International Exchange Fellow
From October 13 through October 31, the Legal Center hosted an international cultural/political exchange fellow from Libya, Adbelsalam Elmcassabi. A Senior Language Assistant, United Nations Support Mission in Libya, Mr. Elmcassabi is interested in improving democracy in Lybia, in particular regarding the conduct of elections. Mr. Elmcassabi came to the U.S. interested in learning about electoral integrity and transparency issues, the role that nonpartisan, nonprofit organizations play in promoting transparency in U.S. elections, as well as nonprofit organization management generally. During his two weeks with the Legal Center, staff arranged meetings between Mr. Elmcassabi and a variety of nonprofits in the Washington, DC area, as well as meetings with numerous government officials and staff.
Mr. Elmcassabi’s two weeks at the Legal Center were part of a larger, month-long exchange program hosted by the U.S. nonprofit Legacy International and sponsored by the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. The role as host to Mr. Elmcassabi is part of a longer-running Legal Center international exchange with North Africa and the Middle East facilitated by Legacy International and the State Department. In March of this year, Legal Center Senior Counsel Paul S. Ryan participated in a Legacy International/State Department exchange delegation to Egypt. Last fall, the Legal Center hosted a group of Legacy International delegates from North Africa and the Middle East for a discussion of money in U.S. elections.
Trevor Potter Speaks at the University of California, Irvine Law School
On October 30, Campaign Legal Center President, Trevor Potter addressed Rick Hasen’s campaign finance class at University of California, Irvine and later participated in a question and answer forum with the full law school community. Mr. Potter discussed current campaign finance issues and reform efforts.
Tara Malloy Participates in Campaign Finance Panel at Duke Law School
On November 18, Legal Center Senior Counsel Tara Malloy participated in a panel discussion entitled “McCutcheon v. FEC: Citizens United Part 2?” hosted by the ACLU and the American Constitution Society at Duke Law School. The panel featured a debate on campaign finance law and the McCutcheon case between Ms. Malloy and Erin Murphy, the attorney who represented the appellants in oral argument at the Supreme Court.
Legal Center President Joins Panel at University of San Diego
On October, 30, Trevor Potter participated as a panelist at the University of San Diego at an event entitled “Post-‘Citizens United’: Does ‘Dark Money’ Buy Elections? What Can Investors & Regulators Do?” The panel focused on the Supreme Court’s highly controversial decision, its impact on shareholders, corporations, and democracy issues, and discussed possible reforms.