- Ninth Circuit Upholds Corporate Contribution Ban and Other San Diego Campaign Finance Restrictions
- Federal Officeholder and Candidate Fundraising for Super PACs Clearly Illegal: Campaign Legal Center and Democracy 21 Submit Comments to FEC
- Legal Center and Democracy 21 Inform Members of Congress it is Illegal for Them to Solicit Unlimited Contributions for a Super PAC
- District Court Ruling Against Supreme Court Precedent on Corporate Contribution Ban
- Supreme Court Precedent on Corporate Contribution Ban Disregarded Again by District Court Judge in Reconsideration
- Legal Center Files Comments Urging FEC to Deny Stephen Colbert's Request to Expand 'Press Exemption'
- Legal Center President 'Counsels' Stephen Colbert on Campaign Finance Law on FEC Advisory Opinion Request
- Statement from Legal Center Policy Director on Edwards Indictment
- Congressional Support for Proposed Executive Order for Transparency of Secret Campaign Spending by Government Contractors
- Broad Coalition Urges Senate to Stop Wasting Tax Dollars & File Disclosure Reports Electronically
- Legal Center President Appears on the Diane Rehm Show: "Campaign Finance and Upcoming Elections"
- Legal Center Executive Director Addresses Pennsylvania League of Women Voters
Ninth Circuit Upholds Corporate Contribution Ban and Other San Diego Campaign Finance Restrictions
On June 9, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued its opinion in Thalheimer v. City of San Diego, affirming the district court's decision not to preliminarily enjoin several challenged campaign finance restrictions of the City of San Diego. The Campaign Legal Center, together with Common Cause, filed an amici curiae brief with the Ninth Circuit supporting the City of San Diego.
"The Ninth Circuit's correct understanding and application of Supreme Court precedent is a refreshing contrast to the judicial activism displayed earlier this week by Judge Cacheris of the U.S. District Court of the Eastern District of Virginia in the Danielczyk case," stated J. Gerald Hebert, Executive Director of the Campaign Legal Center. "Whereas the Ninth Circuit correctly did its job, Judge Cacheris grossly overstepped his authority when he ignored Supreme Court precedent and struck down the century-old federal restriction on corporate contributions to candidates and political parties."
To read the Legal Center's brief, click here.
Federal Officeholder and Candidate Fundraising for Super PACs Clearly Illegal: Campaign Legal Center and Democracy 21 Submit Comments to FEC
On June 6, 2011, the Campaign Legal Center and Democracy 21 submitted comments to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) explaining why it is illegal for federal officeholders and candidates to solicit unlimited contributions for Super PACs. The comments address Advisory Opinion Request (AOR) 2011-12 submitted on behalf of Majority PAC and House Majority PAC asking the Commission's opinion as to whether federal officeholders and candidates could raise unlimited contributions for Super PACs making independent expenditures to influence federal elections.
The AO request from the two Super PACs that support Democratic candidates followed an announcement by the Republican Super PAC that it planned to have Republican federal officeholders and candidates raise unlimited contributions for the Super PAC and would spend the funds to support the specific Republican candidates who raised the funds.
The Campaign Legal Center and Democracy 21 urged the Commission "to make clear that covered officials may not solicit unlimited individual contributions, nor any corporate and union contributions, on behalf of the PACs without violating 2 U.S.C. § 441i." We explained that "covered officials" includes federal officeholders, candidates and national political party officials.
To read the full comments, click here.
Legal Center and Democracy 21 Inform Members of Congress it is Illegal for Them to Solicit Unlimited Contributions for a Super PAC
In a letter sent May 25, 2011, to Members of Congress, Campaign Legal Center President Trevor Potter and Democracy 21 President Fred Wertheimer informed Senators and Representatives that it would be a violation of law for a member of Congress to solicit unlimited contributions for a Super PAC.
The letter stated: "The ban on soft money enacted in 2002 prohibits federal officeholders and candidates from soliciting or directing any funds in connection with a federal election 'unless the funds are subject to the limitations, prohibitions and reporting requirements' of the law. This solicitation prohibition has been upheld by the Supreme Court."
This issue arose when members of the Republican National Committee announced plans to have federal officeholders and candidates solicit unlimited contributions for the Super PAC. Democratic-leaning Super PACs subsequently filed an advisory opinion request with the FEC proposing to undertake the practice themselves.
To read the full letter, click here.
District Court Ruling Against Supreme Court Precedent on Corporate Contribution Ban
On May 26, 2011 Judge James Cacheris of the U.S. District court for the Eastern District of Virginia declared unconstitutional the federal restriction on direct corporate contributions to candidates and political parties. This decision in effect attempts to overrule a standing Supreme Court precedent, FEC v. Beaumont, which upheld the same federal corporate contribution ban eight years ago.
"This decision is way out of line," Legal Center Associate Legal Counsel Tara Malloy stated, "To attempt to overrule a standing Supreme Court decision without even mentioning that decision is a ridiculous overreach. A district court has no authority to ignore a controlling Supreme Court precedent."
The district court found that the reasoning of the Supreme Court's 2010 decision in Citizens United v. FEC implicitly undercut the constitutional basis of the federal restriction on corporate contributions, and on these grounds, struck down the corporate contribution ban. However, the Supreme Court decision in Citizens United reviewed the federal restriction on corporate independent expenditures. The Court did not consider the century-old restriction on corporate contributions, noting explicitly that "Citizens United has not made direct contributions to candidates, and it is not suggested that the Court should reconsider whether contribution limits should be subjected to rigorous First Amendment scrutiny."
To read the full release, click here.
Supreme Court Precedent on Corporate Contribution Ban Disregarded Again by District Court Judge in Reconsideration
On June 7, U.S. District Court Judge James Cacheris reaffirmed his May 26 decision. The Judge clarified, however, that his order was limited only to the case before the court, U.S. v. Danielczyk, a criminal matter concerning allegations that the defendants illegally directed corporate contributions to Hillary Clinton's 2008 Presidential campaign.
Judge Cacheris' initial decision failed even to cite controlling Supreme Court precedent (FEC v. Beaumont). In the second opinion, the Judge found that Beaumont was not directly applicable to the criminal case before the court, asserting that Beaumont considered the corporate contribution ban as applied to a non-profit advocacy corporation, whereas Danielczyk involves the contributions of a for-profit corporation.
"Judge Cacheris' decision does not even pass the laugh test," said Malloy. "His reasoning would exempt for-profit corporations from the federal corporate contribution restriction, while suggesting that non-profit advocacy corporations are still bound by the restriction under Beaumont. We hope that the government appeals as quickly as possible to clean up the legal mess created by this misguided decision."
To read the full decision, click here.
To read the Legal Center's statement about the decision, click here.
Legal Center Files Comments Urging FEC to Deny Stephen Colbert's Request to Expand 'Press Exemption'
On May 27, 2011 the Campaign Legal Center, together with Democracy 21, urged the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to deny a request by comedian Stephen Colbert to significantly expand the so-called "press-exemption" to a number of federal election laws. The two organizations filed comments with the FEC in response to an advisory opinion request by Mr. Colbert seeking the FEC's opinion as to whether the Viacom corporation, which owns, produces and distributes his television show, The Colbert Report, may pay for a variety of expenses of his Colbert Super PAC without disclosing any of the expenses as in-kind contributions to the PAC under the "press exemption."
"Although we recognize that Mr. Colbert submitted his advisory opinion in the spirit of political comedy, an opinion by the FEC permitting all that Mr. Colbert requests would have a sweeping and damaging impact on disclosure laws and the public's right to know about campaign finance activities," said Paul S. Ryan, FEC Program Director at the Campaign Legal Center. "Many television show hosts who are serious politicians have PACs that could reap great financial benefit from the expansion of the scope of the 'press exemption'
While some of Mr. Colbert's proposed activities would fall within the scope of the "press exemption," some clearly do not. The Campaign Legal Center and Democracy 21 urged the FEC to make clear that neither (1) Viacom's costs associated with producing political ads for Colbert Super PAC to be "air[ed] as paid advertisements on other shows and networks," nor (2) Viacom's payment of the PAC's administrative costs (e.g., preparing and filing campaign finance reports with the FEC) would fall within the "press exemption."
To read the Legal Center's comments, click here.
Legal Center President 'Counsels' Stephen Colbert on Campaign Finance Law on FEC Advisory Opinion Request
On May 31, 2011 Campaign Legal Center President Trevor Potter was once again a guest on The Colbert Report on the Comedy Central Network. Potter and Host Stephen Colbert discussed follow up questions sent by Federal Election Commission staff related to an advisory opinion request filed regarding activities the Colbert Super PAC might undertake under the so-called "media exemption". Mr. Potter has disqualified himself from any of the Legal Center's activities in connection with the Colbert Super PAC.
To see the interview, click here.
To see Potter's other recent Colbert Report appearances, click here.
Statement from Legal Center Policy Director on John Edwards Indictment
On June 3, 2011 Campaign Legal Center Policy Director Meredith McGehee issued a statement on the allegations unveiled in the indictment against former Senator John Edwards for violating campaign finance laws in order to cover up an extramarital affair that would likely have ended his Presidential campaign were it to come to light.
"To let these actions pass without bringing them to a court of law would be to set a dangerous precedent, allowing candidates and public officials to put themselves on the auction block and accept, under the guise of gifts, financial favors given with the intention of furthering their political careers," McGehee stated. "Such actions would seriously undermine public confidence in our public officials and our democracy." She also noted that because this case deals with a presidential campaign, it is even more important that this case be presented in a court of law before a judge and jury.
To read her full statement, click here.
Congressional Support for Proposed Executive Order for Transparency of Secret Campaign Spending by Government Contractors
On June 3, 2011 a coalition of reform groups hailed Reps. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), Michael Capuano (D-Mass.), and 23 other Members, who wrote a letter to President Obama expressing their strong support for the April 13 draft executive order to require full disclosure of campaign spending and contributions by business entities that seek federal government contracts.
The letter stated that the executive order, if implemented, would represent a big step forward toward depoliticizing the awarding of federal contracts. The best way to guard against contractors attempting to curry favor with officials through political contributions is through the disclosure of possible conflicts of interest.
"Support for the Executive Order from Capitol Hill is important as opponents have completely mischaracterized the order," said Campaign Legal Center Policy Director Meredith McGehee. "The claims that the order would politicize the government contracting process are laughable. The order would actually bring transparency to what is already a highly politicized process. Only the American people are currently left in the dark in the pay-to-play world that is the status quo in Washington."
Broad Coalition Urges Senate to Stop Wasting Tax Dollars & File Disclosure Reports Electronically
On June 9, the Legal Center, along with a diverse coalition of groups, sent a letter to all U.S. Senators urging them to co-sponsor legislation which would require Senate candidates to file their campaign finance reports electronically. Currently, Senators and candidates for Senate file their reports – almost of which are originally created electronically – with the Secretary of the Senate who is required to print them out and then send them to the Federal Election Commission where the information is again re-entered as data.
The current process amounts to a cynical waste of a hundreds of thousands of tax dollars and hours of time by politicians that regularly posture about deficit reduction. The letter also urges Senators to file their reports electronically with the Federal Election Commission voluntarily.
With the support of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), a series of Senators, including former Senator John Ensign (R-NV), have placed holds on this bill for the last several Congresses and blocked the measure from being enacted.
Joining the Campaign Legal Center in signing the letter were The Campaign Finance Institute, The Center for Responsive Politics, Common Cause, Fix Congress First, Judicial Watch, MAPLight.org, OMB Watch, OpentheGovernment.org, Public Campaign, Public Citizen, The Sunlight Foundation, and US PIRG.
Legal Center President Appears on the Diane Rehm Show: "Campaign Finance and Upcoming Elections"
On May 24, 2011, Legal Center President Trevor Potter appeared on the Diane Rehm show on public radio stations across the country discussing the changing face of elections in the wake of the Supreme Court's controversial ruling in Citizens United v. FEC. The other guests were Stan Brand of the Brand Law Group and Dan Eggen of The Washington Post.
To listen, click here.
Legal Center Executive Director Addresses Pennsylvania League of Women Voters
On June 4, 2011 Legal Center Executive Director Gerry Hebert made a presentation at the State Convention of the Pennsylvania League of Women Voters. Hebert discussed the 2011 redistricting cycle, and spoke about legal requirements governing redistricting as well as strategies for how outside groups, like the League, might be more effective in the redistricting process.