- Tenth Circuit Upholds Disclosure Laws in Free Speech v. FEC
- Supreme Court Strikes Down Key Provision of Voting Rights Act
- Congressman Van Hollen Announces IRS Suit
- Voting Rights Institute Launches To Train New Generation of Voting Rights Lawyers
- Voting Rights Act Bailout Proceeded as Supreme Court Weighed Act’s Constitutionality
- Legal Center Files in Support of Los Angeles Independent Expenditure Disclosure Laws in Ninth Circuit
- President Obama Nominates New FEC Commissioners
- Reform Groups Urge Senators to Support Bill Requiring Electronic Filing of Their Campaign Finance Disclosure Reports
- Trevor Potter Featured at Brennan Center Symposium
- CLC Senior Counsel Presents Webinar to AARP Nat. Policy Council Committee
- Senior Counsel Speaks at ICPR Luncheon in Chicago
Tenth Circuit Upholds Disclosure Laws in Free Speech v. FEC
On June 26, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit upheld an earlier district court ruling upholding federal rules regulating political committees and other independent spenders in Free Speech v. FEC. The Campaign Legal Center, joined by Democracy 21, had filed an amici brief in the case, which is one of a long line of challenges to federal disclosure laws.
“This suit, like a flurry of similar suits nationwide, asked the court to ignore precedent and reject the public’s right to know who or what group is spending large amounts of money to determine the winners and losers on Election Day,” said Tara Malloy, Campaign Legal Center Senior Counsel. “In particular, Free Speech ignored altogether the Supreme Court decision in Wisconsin Right to Life v. FEC, which articulated a test for the ‘functional equivalent of express advocacy’ that is virtually identical to the FEC test that was challenged in this case.”
A Wyoming group called Free Speech brought the case to challenge the “subpart (b)” definition of “expressly advocating” (11 C.F.R. § 100.22(b)), as well as the Federal Election Commission’s (FEC) methodology for determining when a group has campaign activity as its “major purpose.” Both rules serve to implement the federal disclosure laws and inform the FEC’s determination of political committee status.
The subpart (b) definition of express advocacy is crucial because it captures sham issue ads that do not say “vote for” or “vote against” a candidate, but “could only be interpreted by a reasonable person as containing advocacy of the election or defeat of one or more clearly identified candidate(s).”
To read the brief filed in the Court of Appeals by the Campaign Legal Center and Democracy 21, click here.
To read the decision by the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, click here.
Supreme Court Strikes Down Key Provision of Voting Rights Act
The June, 25, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Section 4, the coverage formula, of the Voting Rights Act. “Covered” jurisdictions, including all or parts of fifteen states predominantly in the Deep South with long histories of discrimination against minority voters, were required to seek preclearance before changing any election practice or procedure, such as moving polling locations, altering voting districts, or redistricting plans.
In a statement, Legal Center Executive Director, J. Gerald Hebert condemned the decision as a major setback for civil rights in the United States and emphasized that the votes of five Supreme Court justices will end up disenfranchising hundreds of thousands of the nation’s minorities.
“Section 4 and by extension Section 5 are the linchpins of the Voting Rights Act, which continued to block discriminatory voting changes up until today in the aftermath of the Act’s last reauthorization in 2006,” Hebert said, calling the decision an extreme act of judicial activism. “The Constitution grants Congress clear and complete authority to ensure that no American is denied the right to vote because of their race, but a narrow majority of the Supreme Court usurped that authority today.”
To read the Legal Center’s friend of the Court brief in Shelby County v. Holder on behalf of bailed out jurisdictions, click here.
Congressman Van Hollen Announces IRS Suit
On June, 18, Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) announced that he, along with the Campaign Legal Center, Democracy 21 and Public Citizen, would be filing a lawsuit in an attempt to clarify IRS regulations regarding the necessary qualifications for non-profit 501 (c)(4) organizations. Rep. Van Hollen announced the suit at the National Press Club while delivering the keynote address at “Political Money in the 2012 Election, the 113th Congress, and Beyond,” hosted by the Brennan Center. "A 501(c)(4) organization is reserved for entities that are engaged 'exclusively' in social welfare activities, and it's not clear to me what part of 'exclusive' the writers of the regulation didn't get when it came to this particular provision of the law," he told the audience. "I plan to move forward with these groups to file a lawsuit against the IRS to enforce the plain meaning of the law, and frankly get the IRS out of the business of trying to draw these fine distinctions between whether something is 49 percent or 48 percent, or whatever it may be, political activity."
Voting Rights Institute Launches To Train New Generation of Voting Rights Lawyers
On June, 24, the Campaign Legal Center and American University’s Washington College of Law jointly launched a new Voting Rights Institute to help train the next generation voting rights litigators. The four-night Institute trained and updated law students and practitioners on enforcement of voting rights law, particularly cases brought to enforce Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, and the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to the Constitution. These provisions will be especially important in light of the Supreme Court’s controversial Shelby County decision. The Voting Rights Institute is believed to be the first of its kind.
Experts in the field provided background on the Voting Rights Act and relevant Supreme Court cases and then focused on teaching the mechanics of voting rights litigation. Participants gained detailed knowledge of the Voting Rights Act and how it impacts voting rights laws. Legal Center’s Executive Director J. Gerald Hebert served as the Institute’s lead instructor and each night he was joined by seasoned voting rights litigators, appellate advocates, and scholars in the field.
Voting Rights Act Bailout Proceeded as Supreme Court Weighed Act’s Constitutionality
On June, 24, a proposed consent judgment and decree was presented to a three-judge court in Washington, DC, granting a Voting Rights Act bailout to Hanover County, Virginia while the Supreme Court prepared to rule on the Act’s preclearance provisions. Hanover County was part of a growing list of state and local governments to bail out from the preclearance provisions of the Voting Rights Act. Those provisions known as Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act were challenged before the Supreme Court in Shelby County v. Holder.
Critics of Section 5 had argued in briefs to the Court that the bailout process was far too arduous and cost-prohibitive, though within the last six months, states and municipalities from California to New Hampshire have successfully bailed out, proving those arguments to be untrue.
“These bailouts, just like the discriminatory voting practices o that continue to be overturned using Section 5, offer proof that the Voting Rights Act is alive and well and working as Congress intended,” said Legal Center Executive Director J. Gerald Hebert, who serves as legal counsel for Hanover County and the vast majority of all bailed out jurisdictions in his capacity as a solo practitioner.
Legal Center Files in Support of Los Angeles Independent Expenditure Disclosure Laws in Ninth Circuit
On June, 24, the Campaign Legal Center filed an amicus brief in the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in support of the independent expenditure disclosure laws of the City of Los Angeles. The Legal Center’s brief in Dickranian v. City of Los Angeles points out that the Ninth Circuit and the U.S. Supreme Court have repeatedly upheld disclosure requirements and argues that the Ninth Circuit should do so again in this case.
“The U.S. Supreme Court has time and again upheld disclosure laws by overwhelming margins, citing the important public interest in disclosing those seeking to buy influence with candidates and officeholders through political expenditures with details of how they’re spending the money,” said Paul S. Ryan, Legal Center Senior Counsel.
The Los Angeles law requires those making independent expenditures above certain thresholds in city candidate or ballot measure elections to file a campaign finance report and a copy of the communication. The plaintiff/appellant in this case spent nearly $8,000 sending letters to more than 17,000 Los Angeles voters urging them to elect a particular candidate for the office of City Attorney. The district court upheld the City’s disclosure law.
To read the brief filed on June 24th in the Court of Appeals by the Campaign Legal Center, click here.
President Obama Nominates New FEC Commissioners
On June, 24, President Obama nominated two new commissioners to the increasingly dysfunctional Federal Election Commission. Legal Center Senior Counsel Paul S. Ryan, issued a statement calling the move an encouraging sign from an Administration “that has allowed a long-dysfunctional FEC to sink to a new and disgraceful low.”
Ryan expressed support for both nominees and cited nominee Ann Ravel as “the type of individual the Administration should have nominated years ago if it was serious about seeing the nation’s campaign finance laws enforced.” Ravel chairs the California Fair Political Practices Commission, which Ryan emphasized, “the FEC would do well to emulate if it hopes to repair its ruined reputation.” He cited Lee E. Goodman’s extensive background in campaign expressed hope that “if confirmed, he will discharge his duties more effectively than the Commissioner he would replace.”
Reform Groups Urge Senators to Support Bill Requiring Electronic Filing of Their Campaign Finance Disclosure Reports
In a letter sent June, 11, to the Senate, reform groups urged Senators to support S.375, the “Senate Campaign Disclosure Parity Act,” which would require electronic filing of campaign finance disclosure reports by Senate candidates under federal campaign finance laws. Candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives and for the office of President, and nearly all federal political committees, currently file their campaign finance disclosure reports electronically with the FEC. This data is typically uploaded onto the FEC website for public access within 24 hours. By contrast Senate filings generally take weeks to become publicly available and the cost of converting them for FEC purposes costs taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars annually.
The reform groups sending the letter along with the Legal Center include Americans for Campaign Reform, Campaign Finance Institute, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, Common Cause, Democracy 21, Demos, the League of Women Voters, Public Citizen, Sunlight Foundation and U.S. PIRG.
To read the full letter, click here.
Trevor Potter Featured at Brennan Center Symposium
On June, 18, Legal Center President, Trevor Potter, spoke on a panel at the Brennan Center for Justice’s half-day symposium, “Political Money in the 2012 Election, the 113th Congress, and Beyond.” The event at the National Press Club looked back at the first Presidential election since the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, examined developments since then, and discussed possible reforms going forward.
CLC Senior Counsel Presents Webinar to AARP Nat. Policy Council Committee
On June, 25, CLC Senior Counsel Paul S. Ryan presented a webinar to the AARP National Policy Council’s Consumer Committee, summarizing the history of campaign finance law and policy, recent developments, and pending reform proposals at the state and federal levels. Ryan highlighted landmark legislation dating back to the Tillman Act of 1907, as well as significant Supreme Court decisions including Buckley v. Valeo, McConnell v. FEC and Citizens United v. FEC. Ryan also discussed recent proposals to expand disclosure requirements, implement public campaign financing, increase contribution limits and amend the U.S. Constitution to prohibit corporate political spending. Ryan’s presentation was followed by a lengthy discussion of the topic with committee members
Senior Counsel Speaks at ICPR Luncheon in Chicago
On June, 13, CLC Senior Counsel Paul S. Ryan spoke at the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform (ICPR) spring luncheon in Chicago on a panel entitled “More Money, More Problems? Political Reform in the SuperPAC Era.” Joining Ryan on the panel were Michael J. Kasper, Partner at Fletcher, O’Brien, Kasper & Nottage, P.C., Jerry Morrison, Executive Director of SEIU Illinois State Council moderator Prof. Dick Simpson of the University of Illinois at Chicago. Panelists discussed the Supreme Court decision in Citizens United, the new political landscape of unlimited money in politics, and what it means for future Illinois elections.