- Eighth Circuit Upholds Corporate Contribution Restriction, Strong Disclosure Requirements
- Oral Arguments Heard in Voting Rights Act Challenge
- Legal Center Asked to Submit Testimony for Controversial House Hearing on Draft Executive Order
- Executive Order Debate on Public Radio Features Associate Legal Counsel
- Associate Counsel Testifies Before International Gov’t. Ethics Evaluation Team
- Legal Center Challenges Legality of Proposed Soft Money Activities by RNC Shadow Group
- Legal Center Urges FEC to Declare New Republican and Democratic Super PAC Fundraising Proposal Illegal
- Coalition Urges President Obama to Sign Draft Executive Order to Reveal Secret Political Spending by Government Contractors
- Legal Center President ‘Counsels’ Stephen Colbert on Campaign Finance Law on The Colbert Report
- Legal Center President Addresses Law Institute
- Associate Counsel Addresses Washington State Constituent Event
Eighth Circuit Upholds Corporate Contribution Restriction, Strong Disclosure Requirements
On May 16, in a 2-1 opinion, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed that Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life (MCCL) was unlikely to prevail in its challenge to Minnesota’s comprehensive disclosure requirements for independent expenditures and the state restriction on direct corporate contributions to state candidates and political parties. The Campaign Legal Center, along with Democracy 21, filed an amici curiae brief in the court of appeals.
“This is good news for Minnesota and for the health of campaign finance law in the post-Citizens United era,” Legal Center Associate Legal Counsel Tara Malloy stated. “In light of the many pending challenges, we are pleased that the Eighth Circuit has joined the Ninth Circuit and many lower courts in the last year to hold that strong disclosure laws for independent expenditures are constitutional.”
In September 2010, the district court in MCCL v. Swanson denied the plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction, and plaintiffs appealed this decision in to the Eighth Circuit. In their challenge, the plaintiffs relied on the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United to attack Minnesota’s restriction on corporate contributions and its state disclosure requirements.
The Eighth Circuit, however, rejected plaintiffs’ argument that Citizens United cast doubt on the constitutionality of restrictions on corporate contributions and the continuing validity of the Supreme Court’s 2003 Beaumont v. FEC decision.
To read the brief filed by the Campaign Legal Center and Democracy 21, click here.
To read the opinion, click here.
To read the press release, please click here.
Oral Arguments Heard in Voting Rights Act Challenge
On Friday May 6, 2011, the U.S. Court of Appeals heard oral arguments in the case of LaRoque v. Holder, a lawsuit filed by a group of private citizens challenging Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. Legal Center Executive Director J. Gerald Hebert serves as co-counsel to a group of intervenors in the case, including the North Carolina NAACP. Also serving as co-counsel were Laughlin McDonald of the ACLU Voting Rights Project, and Anita Earls and Allison Riggs of the Southern Coalition for Social Justice.
The U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., dismissed the suit in December 2010 on standing grounds, holding that only governmental entities, and not citizen voters or nonpartisan candidates, could challenge the constitutionality of Section 5, which requires “preclearance” of changes to election systems by the Department of Justice in communities with a history of racial discrimination in voting.
The LaRoque v. Holder suit had been brought by five private persons and a private membership association in Kinston, North Carolina. They sought a declaration that Section 5 was unconstitutional, requesting in their complaint declarations that Section 5 unconstitutionally exceeded Congress’s enforcement authority under the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments, and that Section 5, as amended in 2006, violates the Fifth, Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments both generally and "particularly as applied by the Attorney General . . . in his specific refusal to permit Kinston’s change to nonpartisan elections[.]” A decision from the court of appeals is expected sometime this summer.
Legal Center Challenges Legality of Proposed Soft Money Activities by RNC Shadow Group
On May 17, Campaign Legal Center President Trevor Potter and Democracy 21 President Fred Wertheimer condemned the proposed creation of a new “Republican Super PAC” by members of the Republican National Committee (RNC), including campaign finance reform opponent Jim Bopp.
The details of the PAC emerged from press reports, and direct quotes attributed to Bopp outlined a committee whose planned operations would appear to violate numerous federal campaign finance laws due to the involvement of members of the Republican National Committee in establishing and controlling it and through the planned use of federal officeholders and candidates to solicit unlimited contributions for the PAC.
In a detailed statement, Potter and Wertheimer made very clear that in their view “the proposed efforts of this RNC ‘shadow group’ would violate multiple provisions of the federal campaign finance laws” and warned that “any federal candidate or officeholder who solicits unlimited contributions to the “Republican Super PAC” or any other super PAC will be violating federal law.
To read the full statement, click here.
Legal Center Urges FEC to Declare New Republican and Democratic Super PAC Fundraising Proposal Illegal
The Legal Center’s Paul S. Ryan issued a statement May 20 urging the FEC to declare illegal a new fundraising strategy first announced by RNC officials as the “Republican Super PAC” and then detailed further by two Democratic Super PACs in an advisory opinion request filed with the FEC.
As noted above, the Republican Super PAC announced it would be asking party officials and candidates to solicit unlimited funds for it—an activity illegal under the McCain-Feingold law’s federal candidate and party soft money solicitation ban. On the heels of that announcement, two Democratic Super PACs, Majority PAC and House Majority PAC, filed an advisory opinion request with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) seeking confirmation that such solicitations are permissible. Ryan’s statement on behalf of the Legal Center urges the FEC to issue an advisory opinion to the Democratic Super PACs making very clear that candidate and party solicitations of unlimited amounts of individual funds, and solicitations of corporate and labor funds in any amount, constitute a violation of federal law.
To read the full statement, click here.
Coalition Urges President Obama to Sign Executive Order to Reveal Secret Political Spending by Government Contractors
On Wednesday, May 4, 2011, the Legal Center, and other groups representing more than 30 organizations, held a press conference on Capitol Hill in support of a draft White House executive order to require disclosure of secret campaign spending by government contractors. The organizations urged President Obama to promptly sign the executive order and unveiled a citizens’ petition and letter to be delivered to the White House.
The press conference addressed the vast amount of disinformation leveled at the draft executive order since it was leaked last month to opponents of the executive order.
Associate Legal Counsel Tara Malloy delivered remarks on behalf of the Campaign Legal Center at this event. She highlighted the history of secret money spent to influence the election of candidates in our democracy and noted that, "Unsurprisingly, the U.S. Supreme Court has shown very little tolerance for the argument that the First Amendment requires that campaign contributions and expenditures remain anonymous. Nevertheless, opponents of President Obama’s April 13th draft executive order, apparently lacking any objections to the order on its merits, have resorted to attacking its constitutionality. But they conveniently disregard the Supreme Court’s longstanding and consistent support for campaign finance disclosure both as a means to combat political corruption and to ensure a well-informed electorate."
Legal Center Asked to Submit Testimony for Controversial House Hearing on Draft Executive Order
On May 12, a joint House hearing of the Oversight & Government Reform Committee and the Committee on Small Business was held to discuss the draft executive order to provide disclosure of secret political spending by government contractors. Controversy arose when proponents of the draft order were not permitted to call witnesses during the hearing.
At the request of committee staff, Campaign Legal Center Associate Legal Counsel Tara Malloy submitted testimony in support of the draft executive order and outlined the U.S. Supreme Court’s longstanding support of disclosure laws.
To read Malloy’s full testimony, click here.
Legal Center President ‘Counsels’ Stephen Colbert on Campaign Finance Law on the “Colbert Report”
In recent weeks, Legal Center President Trevor Potter has appeared on The Colbert Report on Comedy Central on multiple occasions. On the popular News/Satire/Comedy show, Mr. Potter has been advising Mr. Colbert regarding the legal requirements and implications of forming a political action committee (PAC). Most recently, Mr. Potter advised Mr. Colbert regarding his “Super PAC’s” status and accompanied him to the Federal Election Commission headquarters in Washington, D.C. – where they were greeted by hundreds of fans - to seek a media exemption. Mr. Potter is a partner at the law firm of Caplin and Drysdale, where he represents Mr. Colbert.
To see Potter’s recent Colbert Report appearances on March 30th, April 14th, April 28th, May 11th, and May 16th, click here.
To read about Mr. Potter and Mr. Colbert’s visit to the FEC, click here.
Executive Order Debate on Public Radio Features Associate Legal Counsel
On May 10, 2011, Campaign Legal Center Associate Legal Counsel Tara Malloy participated in a live radio debate concerning a draft White House executive order on disclosure for government contractors. Southern California Public Radio’s Air Talk host Larry Mantle moderated the exchange between Ms. Malloy and Gary Toebben, President of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, discussing an order that would require companies bidding on federal contracts disclose all donations to federal candidates, political parties, committees or interest groups spending money on campaigns once the total exceeds $5,000 in a given year.
To hear the interview, click here.
Associate Counsel Testifies Before International Gov’t. Ethics Evaluation Team
On May 4, the Legal Center’s FEC Program Director and Associate Legal Counsel Paul S. Ryan testified before an international panel of government ethics evaluators from GRECO (the French acronym for Group of States Against Corruption) on the topic of transparency of money in U.S. elections at the U.S. Office of Government Ethics. The United States is a member of GRECO and every member of the international organization undergoes evaluations of various aspects of member states’ laws to prevent government corruption. The international GRECO evaluation panel met with U.S. journalists, nonprofit sector watchdogs and federal government employees and officials (e.g., FEC Commissioners). Ryan was joined on a panel of witnesses by Michael Malbin of the Campaign Finance Institute, Sheila Krumholz of the Center for Responsive Politics, and Michael Svetlik of the International Foundation for Electoral Systems.
Legal Center Associate Counsel Addresses Washington State Constituent Event
On May 5, 2011, Legal Center Associate Counsel Tara Malloy spoke at Representative Adam Smith’s (D-WA) “9th District Day” event for constituents in the Congressional Reading Room of the Library of Congress. Ms. Malloy’s remarks focused on the effect of the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. FEC, lessons learned from the 2010 elections, and likely campaign finance developments in federal elections in the upcoming 2012 elections. Other guest speakers included House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), House Armed Services Committee Chair Buck McKeon (R-CA), U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk, and Washington State Senators Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray.
Legal Center President Addresses American Law Institute
On May 16, 2011, Legal Center President Trevor Potter spoke at the American Law Institute’s (ALI) Annual Meeting in San Francisco on the status of state law relating to election recounts, contests and dangers for confusion in close elections, especially with regards to presidential elections.
The ALI Annual Meeting is a combination of scholarly debate, important addresses and networking. Members participate in a discussion of intellectually challenging issues related to the Institute’s projects and interesting conversations with the most eminent judges, lawyers, and law professors from U.S. and international agencies.