- Supreme Court Oral Argument in Voting Rights Act Challenge
- Challenge to Aggregate Contribution Limits to be heard by Supreme Court
- Supreme Court Leaves Ban on Direct Corporate Contributions Alone, Denies Cert in Danielczyk Case
- Contractor Contribution Ban Defended by Watchdogs in Appeals Court Filing
- New Hampshire Becomes First State to Bailout from Voting Rights Act Preclearance Requirements
- U.S. Chamber’s & API’s Gross Mischaracterizations of the Law Rebutted in SEC Comments Filed by Legal Center
- Watchdogs Urge More Disclosure of Expenditures by Political Committees in Comments on FEC Rule
- Legal Center Senior Counsel Submits Testimony in Support of New York Attorney General’s Disclosure Regulations
- Legal Center President Participates in American Law Institute Election Project
- Executive Director Joins George Mason Law Panel Discussion Previewing Supreme Court Rights Act Challenge
- Legal Center Participates in Twitter Town Hall on Voting Rights Act Challenge
- Telephone Press Briefing on Shelby County & Bailouts
- Executive Director Addresses American University Washington Program
Supreme Court Oral Argument in Voting Rights Act Challenge
On February 27, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Shelby County v. Holder, a case brought by Shelby County, Alabama challenging the constitutionality of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. The Legal Center filed an amici brief in the case in defense of the constitutionality of Section 5, on behalf of several jurisdictions that have bailed out under the special provisions of the Act.
Under the challenged provisions, certain “covered” states and localities, predominantly in the South, must obtain Justice Department or DC Court approval (known as preclearance) before changing any election practice or procedure, such as moving polling locations or altering voting districts.
The Legal Center’s amici brief on behalf of Washington County, VA, the General Registrar of Voters of Essex County, VA and the City of Kings Mountain, NC refutes a string of inaccuracies and overstatements put forth by Shelby County regarding the burdens of the bailout process and explains that the process is financially feasible, and neither cumbersome nor difficult. The brief further highlights that Shelby County itself would apparently not qualify for a bailout due to, among other things, a past violation of the Voting Rights Act by a city within the county.
The Supreme Court is expected to issue a ruling in the case in June.
To read the brief field by the Legal Center, click here.
Challenge to Aggregate Contribution Limits to be Heard by Supreme Court
On February 19, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear a challenge brought to the aggregate federal contribution limits, noting probable jurisdiction in McCutcheon v. FEC. The case, brought by plaintiffs Shaun McCutcheon and the Republican National Committee (RNC), challenges both the $70,800 aggregate limit on contributions to non-candidate committees and the $46,200 aggregate limit on contributions to candidate committees in a two-year election cycle.
In September of 2012, a three-judge panel in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia concluded that the aggregate limits are justified, and rejected the arguments of the plaintiff that the limits are unconstitutionally low and unconstitutionally overbroad.
“It is troubling that the Supreme Court has chosen to hear this challenge, but it has become readily apparent that there are a number of Justices who are willing to usurp Congress’s role as legislator when it comes to matter of campaign finance,” said Tara Malloy, Legal Center Senior Counsel. “An aggregate contribution limit was passed in the wake of the Watergate money scandals and was upheld in the 1976 Supreme Court decision Buckley v. Valeo. If the current aggregate limits were to be struck down, one-, two- and even three-million dollars in contributions could easily be funneled by a single donor to his or her party and candidates of choice.”
To read the amici brief filed by the Campaign Legal Center and Democracy 21, in defense of the aggregate limits, click here.
To read the District Court's decision upholding the aggregate contribution limits, click here.
Supreme Court Leaves Ban on Direct Corporate Contributions Alone, Denies Cert in Danielczyk Case
On February 25, the Supreme Court declined to hear a challenge to the century-old federal ban on corporate contributions to candidates and political parties in U.S. v Danielczyk. Despite a clearly activist and deregulatory bent on campaign finance matters under Chief Justice John Roberts, the High Court let stand a circuit court decision upholding the ban.
“We are pleased the Court chose not to revisit the century-old corporate contribution ban, which is an important bulwark against use of the corporate form to circumvent the contribution limits and to funnel corporate money directly into campaign coffers,” said Legal Center Senior Counsel Tara Malloy. “But the Court’s record on campaign finance matters remains abysmal and its fingerprints are all over the disastrous flood of money into our elections that has followed its Citizens United decision.”
The Danielczyk case was a criminal matter involving numerous allegations of campaign finance violations, including that the defendants illegally directed corporate contributions to Hillary Clinton’s 2008 Presidential campaign.
To read the amicus brief filed by the Campaign Legal Center and Democracy 21 in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, click here.
To read the decision of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, click here.
Contractor Contribution Ban Defended by Watchdogs in Appeals Court Filing
On February 27, the Campaign Legal Center, joined by Democracy 21 and Public Citizen, filed an amici brief in Wagner v. FEC, opposing an effort to overturn the 70-year-old ban on campaign contributions by federal contractors. The case is currently on appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia after a federal district court upheld the ban.
“This federal ban is a crucial check against the widespread scandals that have sent government officials to jail in cities and states across the country.” said Tara Malloy, Legal Center Senior Counsel. “The courts have long recognized the inherent susceptibility of the government contracting process and have repeatedly upheld this law and similar laws passed in states and municipalities nationwide.
In November 2012, the district court granted summary judgment in favor of the FEC, finding that the law was enacted to “prevent corruption and the appearance thereof and, in so doing, to protect the integrity of the electoral system by ensuring that federal contracts were awarded based on merit.” The Campaign Legal Center and Democracy 21 filed a brief in the district court defending the constitutionality of the government contractor ban and in support of the FEC’s motion for summary judgment.
To read the brief filed by the Campaign Legal Center, Democracy 21 and Public Citizen in the Circuit Court, click here.
To read the District Court opinion granting summary judgment, click here.
New Hampshire Becomes First State to Bailout from Voting Rights Act Preclearance Requirements
On March 4, a three-judge court in Washington, DC granted a Voting Rights Act bailout to New Hampshire, marking the first time since the 1982 amendments to the Act took effect that a state has bailed out from the Act’s preclearance requirements. The bailout had assumed a higher profile when it was opposed by a conservative group seeking to undermine the defense of the Voting Rights Act before the U.S. Supreme Court in Shelby County v. United States. The court denied the attempt by the Center for Individual Rights to intervene in the case on the grounds that the voter that the Center represented lacked standing.
“New Hampshire’s successful bailout effectively defeats the ‘theory’ advanced by Shelby County, Alabama in its pending challenge to the constitutionality of the Voting Rights Act that the bailout provisions are illusory or unworkable,” said the Legal Center Executive Director J. Gerald Hebert, who serves as legal counsel to the State of New Hampshire in his capacity as a solo practitioner.
To read the bailout consent judgment and decree, click here.
U.S. Chamber’s & API’s Gross Mischaracterizations of the Law Rebutted in SEC Comments Filed by Legal Center
On March 7, the Campaign Legal Center submitted comments to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) rebutting a series of gross mischaracterizations of law made by two major trade associations seeking to avoid disclosure of their donors whose money is used for political activities. In their comments to the SEC concerning a rulemaking petition filed by the Committee on Disclosure of Corporate Political Spending urging the SEC to require public companies to disclose their political spending to shareholders, the United States Chamber of Commerce and the American Petroleum Institute (API) offered incorrect and misleading information to the SEC, which the Legal Center debunked in its comments to the agency.
“In a desperate effort to stave off disclosing the corporations funding their increasingly sophisticated multi-million dollar political operations, the Chamber and API resorted to completely mischaracterizing pertinent laws including the Administrative Procedures Act, existing federal and state campaign finance disclosure laws, and even the constitutionality of the disclosure rule requested by the petitioners,” said Paul S. Ryan, Legal Center Senior Counsel.
The Legal Center urged the SEC to move forward with a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking concerning publicly traded company disclosure to shareholders of the use of corporate resources for political activities, noting that the Supreme Court in Citizens United explicitly highlighted the importance of shareholder disclosure.
To read the comments filed with the SEC by the Legal Center, click here.
Watchdogs Urge More Disclosure of Expenditures by Political Committees in Comments on FEC Rule
On March 4, the Campaign Legal Center, joined by Democracy 21, filed comments with the Federal Election Commission supporting a draft rule interpreting disclosure requirements for political committee expenditures and urging the Commission to require even more detailed disclosure of payments by a committee’s vendor to subvendors on behalf of that committee.
“When a vendor such as a campaign consultant spends money on behalf of a committee through payments to subvendors, such as a payment to an ad production company and a payment to a TV station, these payments to the production company and TV station should each be disclosed, but the FEC has not been requiring such disclosure,” said Paul S. Ryan, Legal Center Senior Counsel. “Instead, in such scenarios, the FEC has only been requiring committees to report the lump-sum payment to the consultant, which leaves voters in the dark about how committees are actually spending campaign dollars.
To read the comments filed by the Legal Center and Democracy 21, click here.
Legal Center Senior Counsel Submits Testimony in Support of New York Attorney General’s Disclosure Regulations
On March 1, Legal Center Senior Counsel Tara Malloy submitted detailed written testimony in support of the New York Attorney General’s proposed regulations that would require certain non-profit organizations registered with the Attorney General’s Charities Bureau to disclose their donors if they spend $10,000 or more in a year on a New York election-related communication. In January, Ms. Malloy had testified in person at a hearing in New York in support of the proposed measures.
Her testimony in both instances focused on the constitutionality of the proposed regulations, noting that the Supreme Court had consistently upheld measures requiring political transparency and had specifically rejected many of the arguments that opponents of disclosure offer in support of their position.
To read the testimony submitted to the New York Attorney General, click here.
Legal Center President Participates in American Law Institute Election Project
On March 7 and 8, Legal Center President Trevor Potter participated as an adviser for The American Law Institute’s “Principles of Election Law: Resolution of Election Disputes” project held in Philadelphia. Potter and election experts from around the nation, including Legal Center board members Guy-Uriel Charles and Heather Gerken, addressed the “principles, rules, and procedures applicable to recounts and the resolutions of disputes” over cast ballots as well as the rules for “non-precinct voting” – voting by any means beyond traditional Election Day voting at the polls.
Executive Director Joins George Mason Law Panel Discussion Previewing Supreme Court Voting Rights Act Challenge
On February 19, Legal Center Executive Director J. Gerald Hebert joined David Schleicher, law professor at George Mason University Law and Abigail Thernstrom, vice-chair of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights in a panel discussion previewing the Supreme Court case Shelby County v. Holder. The panel was sponsored by the George Mason School of Law Democrats, the Black Law Students Association and the law school’s chapter of the American Constitution Society. The panelists shared their perspectives and predictions on the Supreme Court Voting Rights Act challenge slated to be argued the next week.
Legal Center Participates in Twitter Town Hall on Voting Rights Act Challenge
On February 26, the Campaign Legal Center took part in a Twitter Town Hall to educate the public on the Voting Rights Act and the challenge to the landmark civil rights legislation currently before the U.S. Supreme Court, Shelby County v. United States. The virtual town hall held on Twitter raised public awareness of the case and its significance to every American. Participating organizations also included the American Civil Liberties Union, Alliance for Justice, the American Constitution Society, the Asian American Justice Center, Generational Alliance, the Leadership Conference, the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
Telephone Press Briefing By Former DOJ Officials on Voting Rights Act & Bailouts Features Executive Director
On February 26, the day before oral argument in Shelby County v. United States, Legal Center Executive Director J. Gerald Hebert, co-hosted a telephonic press briefing by former U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) officials to answers questions about the Voting Rights Act’s Section 5 bailout provisions. Hebert, who held a number of supervisory positions in the Voting Section of the Civil Rights Division at DOJ, co-hosted the call with Julie Fernandes, former Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights. The provisions allowing jurisdictions to bailout from coverage under Section 5 of Voting Rights Act by demonstrating records of non-discrimination are a key element of the government’s case in the current Supreme Court challenge to the law.
Executive Director Addresses American University Washington Program
On February 19, Legal Center Executive Director J. Gerald Hebert addressed American University’s Washington Semester Program, discussing the current state of money in politics and outlining potential reforms the Campaign Legal Center is currently pursuing. The program hosts students from around the country and schedules discussions for students with leading figures on the important political issues of the day.