CLC Update November 20, 2010

  1. Reform Groups Push ‘Disclosure Only’ Bill on Hill
  2. Legal Center Issues Guide to Current Rules for Federal Elections
  3. Supreme Court Rejects Latest Attempt to Undermine Disclosure, Denies Cert in v. FEC
  4. CLC Files Voter Intimidation Complaint with Department of Justice
  5. General Release of Gerrymandering Documentary Featuring Executive Director
  6. Will Codrington Joins CLC on Fellowship
  7. Speaking Events


Reform Groups Push ‘Disclosure Only’ Bill on Capitol Hill

At a press conference on November 18 in front of the U.S. Capitol, six reform groups called on Congress to pass a ‘disclosure only’ version of the DISCLOSE Act during the ‘lame duck’ session of the 111th Congress. Such a stripped-down bill would take away the issues that drew criticism from opponents of the legislation. 

Policy Director Meredith McGehee pointed out that, “[u]nrestricted corporate speech in elections without disclosure of those funding the speech is contrary to the Court’s theory in Citizens United v. FEC, which paired corporate First Amendment speech rights with the virtues of disclosure of the sources of such speech—disclosure to shareholders and to the general public.” To read the full statement, click here.


Legal Center Issues Guide to Current Rules for Federal Elections

Right through to Election Day, confusion reigned among the public and the press about the rules governing the estimated $4 billion-plus that was spent on the 2010 federal races.  The Campaign Legal Center created and distributed widely a basic primer on the new campaign finance landscape heading into the 2012 election cycle. 

The overview outlines three seminal developments in the 2010 election cycle, namely the impact of the Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. FEC, the failure of the disclosure laws and the emergence of “Super PACs.”  This is followed by brief summaries of the federal tax laws that influence election spending and the current campaign finance law.  To view a chart defining the types of outside groups (527s and the various 501(c) organizations) and outlining their tax status, permitted activities, and disclosure requirements under federal tax and election laws, click here.


Supreme Court Rejects Latest Attempt to Undermine Disclosure, Denies Cert In Speechnow.Org v. FEC

On November 1, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to grant certiorari in v. FEC, allowing a decision of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals to stand which had upheld the comprehensive disclosure requirements applicable to and other federal political committees. had argued that committees making only independent expenditures, now known as “Super-PACs,” should be exempted from these disclosure requirements based on its claim that these requirements served no legitimate governmental purpose. 

“The Court’s decision not to take the case is a victory for disclosure and a reaffirmation of its little-noted but nearly unanimous ruling in Citizens United upholding federal disclosure provisions,” said Tara Malloy, Associate Legal Counsel with the Campaign Legal Center.  “We hope it encourages Congress to again take up the DISCLOSE Act after the November elections, and provides further confirmation that meaningful political disclosure is not only good policy, but a constitutional exercise of Congress’s authority to ensure the integrity of elections.  Besieged by anonymous political advertising this fall, the American people expect Congress to act to address this flood of secret spending in our elections.”  

The Legal Center, along with Democracy 21, filed amici briefs with both the district court and D.C. Circuit to defend the challenged disclosure laws. Click here to view an index of these filings


CLC Files Voter Intimidation Complaint With Department Of Justice

On October 28, 2010, the Legal Center sent a complaint to the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division alleging possible voter intimidation in Texarkana, Texas.  Elderly, disabled black voters who had voted by mail in Texarkana were being visited by two white women who demanded that the voters verify that they had in fact voted by mail, verify that the signature on the ballot application was their own, and demanding information on who had assisted them in all aspects of the process.  Some voters reported that the women’s statements suggested they were in fact working for state authorities, which appears to be untrue.  Only elderly and disabled black voters were being visited and targeted by the women.  The two white women were private citizens and had no known affiliation with any state or county official.  The voters who had been visited reported to the Legal Center that they had voted absentee because they were physically disabled, weak, and physically unable to travel to the polls.  They further reported that they felt confused, harassed and intimidated by people visiting them in their homes and asking all kinds of questions about them having cast their ballots. 

Texarkana was the location of a prior lawsuit brought by CLC alleging voter intimidation aimed at black voters.  That lawsuit led to a settlement with state authorities that clarified that those who had assisted elderly and disabled voters in casting votes by mail would not be prosecuted for a mere technicality (e.g., failing to sign an absentee ballot envelope if a person simply mailed the ballot of another), absent some other aggravating factor such as actual voter fraud. The new complaint remains under investigation, according to DOJ sources.  


General Release Premiere Of Gerrymandering Documentary Featuring CLC Executive Director

On October 29, 2010, there was a general release premiere of filmmaker Jeff Reichert’s documentary "Gerrymandering", which features Executive Director J. Gerald Hebert, among other redistricting experts.  The film traces the myriad abuses of the redistricting process and focuses particularly on the successful 2008 ballot initiative in California to reform the state’s legislative redistricting process.  Hebert and other Legal Center staff attended the DC premiere of the film.


Wilfred Codrington III Joins CLC For One-Year Fellowship

Attorney Wilfred Codrington III began a one-year fellowship with the Legal Center on November 1.  His fellowship is being sponsored by the DLA Piper law firm.  At the Legal Center Mr. Codrington is working on litigation, legal research and FEC program filings.  He is a member of the New York and Massachusetts bars and has a Master’s degree in Government Administration from the University of Pennsylvania and a law degree from Stanford. 


Speaking Events

On November 18, 2010, Tara Malloy and Meredith McGehee both spoke to a group of George Mason University undergraduates taking a semester-long course entitled, “Interest Groups, Lobbying and the Policy Process”. The Legal Center staffers highlighted campaign finance and the Citizen's United decision as well as public interest lobbying.

On November 4, the American Bar Association Administrative Law Conference provided several panel discussions with three Legal Center presenters.  Executive Director Gerry Hebert spoke on the panel entitled “Fallout from the 2010 Census: Redrawing District Lines in an Increasingly Polarized Party Atmosphere and Its Effect on Voter Choice.”  Trevor Potter, the Legal Center’s President and General Counsel and Tara Malloy, Associate Legal Counsel, spoke on the panel entitled “The 2010 Elections and the Future of Campaign Finance Reform.”

On October 26, 2010, Legal Center Policy Director Meredith McGehee and Communications Director David Vance met with a representative of the Election Assessment Mission from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.  The U.S. Mission is observing the 2010 midterm elections, and the discussion touched on a wide variety of topics including the impact of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, television and internet advertising, and spending by outside groups.

On October 19, Trevor Potter, the Legal Center’s President and General Counsel, spoke at the National Communications Association National Free Speech Conference on the topic, “Is Money Free Speech? Free Speech and Campaign Finance Reform”.