CLC Update February 18, 2011

  1. Reformers Call for Congressional Hearings on FEC
  2. House and Senate Urged to Oppose Multiple Efforts to Kill Presidential Public Financing System
  3. Oral Arguments Held in Minnesota Disclosure Case
  4. Legal Center Staff Appearances


Reformers Call for Congressional Hearings on FEC

On February 16, 2011, the Legal Center joined with a coalition of reform groups in calling for Congressional hearings into the systemic failings of the Federal Election Commission (FEC) and its failure to fulfill many of its basic statutory responsibilities to enforce existing campaign finance laws.  The letter urged the committees to hold hearings on the agency and its frequent refusal to enforce the campaign finance laws passed by Congress.  “Our nation’s laws should not be undermined by the agency charged with enforcement.  It is up to Congress to write the laws and for the courts to determine the constitutionality of the laws,” the letter stresses. 

 The letter was sent to the Chairs and Ranking Members of the House and Senate oversight committees by the following groups: Americans for Campaign Reform, Campaign Legal Center, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), Common Cause, Democracy 21, League of Women Voters, Public Campaign, Public Citizen and U.S. Public Interest Research Group (USPIRG).

 Click here to read the full letter.

 On the following day, the reform groups sent a similar letter to the Chairman and Ranking Minority Members of two additional Committees, Senate Rules and House Administration, urging them to investigate and hold hearings on the FEC. These two committees have congressional jurisdiction over the nation's campaign finance laws and the FEC.

According to the letters to these Committees, "the FEC Commissioners are carrying out what can only be described as 'agency nullification,' failing to provide for any effective enforcement of the statutes within their purview."

 Click here to view the full letter.


House and Senate Urged to Oppose Multiple Efforts to Kill Presidential Public Financing System

 On February 15, 2011, the Campaign Legal Center urged Members of the U.S. House of Representatives to vote against any amendments to the FY 2011 spending bill (H.R. 1) that would restrict funding to implement the presidential public financing system or the presidential tax check-off. 

 The Legal Center was joined by a coalition of reform groups that signed onto the letter, including: Americans for Campaign Reform, Brennan Center for Justice, Campaign Legal Center, Common Cause, CREW, Democracy 21, League of Women Voters, People For the American Way, Public Campaign, Public Citizen and U.S. PIRG.

 An amendment was offered by Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) to cut off funding for the program and passed by a largely party-line vote.  

 Click here to read the letter sent to the Representatives.

 A similar letter was sent the week before, on February 7, only this time urging the Senate to vote against a bill to repeal the presidential pubic financing system.  In a letter to Members of the U.S. Senate, reform groups emphasized that the highly successful 35-year-old program should be strengthened and updated rather than scuttled.  The legislation before the Senate (S. 194) was the companion legislation to a House bill, H.R. 359, which passed in late January on a largely party-line vote of 239-160.  The bill has been referred to the Finance Committee.

Click here to read the letter sent to the Senators


Oral Arguments Heard in Minnesota Disclosure Case

On January 11, 2011, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral argument in Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life (MCCL) v. Swanson.  In the suit, the plaintiffs are attacking Minnesota’s restriction on corporate contributions to state candidates and political parties and its state disclosure requirements for corporate independent expenditures.  During the 2010 election cycle the challenged disclosure laws led to the revelation that the Target Corporation made contributions in support of a controversial Minnesota gubernatorial candidate which resulted in national media coverage.  

In December of last year the Campaign Legal Center filed an amici brief in this case arguing that the plaintiffs have no basis for their challenge to Minnesota’s corporate contribution restriction or its disclosure laws based on the Supreme Court’s holdings in Citizens United because that decision only invalidated restrictions on independent expenditures by corporations and unions, and did not question the constitutionality of restrictions on corporate contributions


Legal Center Staff Appearances

On February 11, 2011, Marianne Viray briefed undergraduate interns from Brigham Young University on the state of campaign finance reform and the aftermath of the Citizens United decision.