- Supreme Court Hears Oral Argument in McCutcheon v. FEC
- Trevor Potter Discusses McCutcheon Case at National Press Club “Newsmaker”
- McCutcheon v. FEC Related Activities
- Legal Center Filing Urges Michigan to Properly Enforce State Law Disclosure Requirements in Judicial Elections
- Watchdogs Urge FEC to Reject Tea Party Group Request for Donor Disclosure Exemption Similar to NAACP Exemption Regarding Membership List in Jim Crow South
- CBS 60 Minutes Segment Features Trevor Potter
- Stephen Colbert and Trevor Potter Deliver Dean’s Lecture at Yale Law School
- Trevor Potter Named to the Adlai Stevenson Center Board
- Disclosure Debate at Vermont Law School Features Senior Counsel
- Senior Counsel Participates in McCutcheon Panel at George Washington Law
- Trevor Potter Speaks at Fowler School of Law
- Executive Director Addresses American University Washington Program
- Czech Author Interviews Policy Director for Book on Lobbying
- Policy Director Meets with Mexican Researcher About Advocacy
On October 8, the United States Supreme Court heard oral argument in McCutcheon vs. FEC, a challenge to federal aggregate contribution limits which for decades have prevented wholesale circumvention of existing federal contribution limits. Attorneys from the Legal Center attended the hearing and afterwards Senior Counsel Tara Malloy addressed first the media and later a rally outside the Court.
Malloy emphasized that absent the challenged limits, individual donors could circumvent the base contribution limits by contributing hundreds of thousands and even millions of dollars in contributions to a huge number of candidates, party committees and PACs each election cycle. As the Legal Center’s amici brief in the case noted, if the limits were invalidated, an individual could contribute $5,200 toward every single House and Senate candidate of the donor’s preferred party, $32,400 to each of that party’s three federal party committees, and $10,000 to each of that party’s fifty state committees for a total of $3.6 million in a two-year election cycle. The total could be further increased by as many $5,000 contributions to PACs as an individual chose to make.
The case, brought by the Republican National Committee (RNC) and contributor Shaun McCutcheon, challenges both the $74,600 aggregate limit on contributions to non-candidate committees and the $48,600 aggregate limit on contributions to candidate committees in a two-year election cycle. The lower court ruling upholding the limits cited the Legal Center’s brief regarding the multi-million dollar contributions that could be made if the law was overturned.
The groups signing onto the brief filed by the Legal Center in the Supreme Court included AARP, Asian Americans Advancing Justice, Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF), Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), Common Cause, The League of Women Voters of the United States, Progressives United and Public Campaign.
To read the brief filed by the Campaign Legal Center and the other organizations, click here.
To watch Tara Malloy address the rally, click here.
Trevor Potter Discusses McCutcheon Case at National Press Club “Newsmaker”
On October 1, Campaign Legal Center President Trevor Potter and Fred Wertheimer of Democracy 21 were the invited speakers at a National Press Club “Newsmaker” event focusing on McCutcheon vs. FEC. The event for members of the Washington press corps was moderated by Jonathan Salant of Bloomberg News and touched on the case, its context and potential repercussions if the Supreme Court were to strike down federal aggregate contribution limits.
To read Trevor Potter’s opening remarks, click here.
McCutcheon v. FEC Related Activities
Leading up to and following the Supreme Court oral argument of McCutcheon vs. FEC, Campaign Legal Center staff members were active in drawing attention to the case and educating the decision-makers, stakeholder and the public on the context and the issues at play in the challenge to the aggregate contribution limits. In addition to fielding dozens of media calls on the case, staff produced and distributed a comprehensive background memo for editorial boards, reporters and other interested parties. Legal Center staff also participated in national media teleconferences, wrote op-eds, placed letters to the editor refuting misinformation about the case, and produced an in-house video discussing the case. Two Legal Center blogs written by Trevor Potter in the days leading up to the argument received extensive media coverage. In addition to a variety of social media efforts, Senior Counsel Paul S. Ryan and Trevor Potter also took part in a two hour Reddit AMA (“Ask Me Anything”) taking questions about the case.
A selection of these efforts with links follows below:
- To read Trevor Potter’s op-ed from the Washington Post Outlook Section, “The Supreme Court needs to get smarter about politics,” click here.
- To read Meredith’s op-ed, “Donation Limits Help Keep Politics Honest,” that appeared on CNN.com, click here.
- To read the Legal Center’s background memo on the case, click here.
- To read Trevor Potter’s blog posts, “The Grenade In The McCutcheon Briefs” and “McCutcheon Brief Grenade Part II – A Bit More On The Standard Of Scrutiny,” click here and here.
- To read Meredith McGehee’s featured comments on Bloomberg View, click here.
- To watch a video of Tara Malloy discussing the case produced by Policy Director Meredith McGehee, click here.
- To see Trevor Potter’s and Paul Ryan’s Reddit “Ask Me Anything” forum on the case, click here.
Legal Center Filing Urges Michigan to Properly Enforce State Law Disclosure Requirements in Judicial Elections
On September 27, the Campaign Legal Center filed in support of the State Bar of Michigan’s request that the State properly enforce Michigan Campaign Finance Act (MCFA) disclosure requirements in judicial elections. In comments filed in the proceeding, the Legal Center urged Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson to reverse an erroneous 2004 interpretation of MCFA by her predecessor that significantly undermined the State disclosure provisions and led to rapid rise in undisclosed political spending in the state.
“The ruling issued in 2004 misinterpreted Supreme Court decisions and effectively gutted the state’s disclosure provisions by narrowing them beyond effectiveness to disastrous effect in the state, particularly with regard to judicial elections,” said Campaign Legal Center Senior Counsel Paul S. Ryan. “The U.S. Supreme Court has been very clear in its decisions, both before and after the 2004 Michigan ruling, that disclosure laws advance the compelling government interest in providing voters with information regarding those spending money to influence voting decisions.”
Michigan campaign finance statutes require disclosure of expenditures for political ads that “support or oppose” candidates in order to capture sham issue ads attacking or supporting candidates and not just those expressly advocating the election or defeat of candidates using phrases like “vote for” and “vote against.” The 2004 interpretation by the Michigan Secretary of State’s office incorrectly advises that only express advocacy could be covered, despite the U.S. Supreme Court decision in McConnell v. FEC ruling that the statutory “support or oppose” standard is constitutionally permissible.
To read the comments filed by the Legal Center, click here.
Watchdogs Urge FEC to Reject Tea Party Group Request for Donor Disclosure Exemption Similar to NAACP Exemption Regarding Membership List in Jim Crow South
On October 18, the Campaign Legal Center, joined by Democracy 21, filed comments in response to a Federal Election Commission (FEC) Advisory Opinion Request (AOR) 2013-17 from the Tea Party Leadership Fund, an FEC-registered political committee, seeking an exemption from the federal law requirement that it disclose its donors based on its claim that doing so “would result in threats, harassment, or reprisals from government officials or private parties.”
Such exemptions are extremely rare. The “evidence” presented to the FEC by the Tea Party Leadership Fund consists of little more than public and private criticism of the Tea Party movement, IRS review of Tea Party organizations’ applications for tax-exempt status, and suspicions that the group may have been under surveillance by the Department of Homeland Security and other federal agencies based, for example, on a report advising law enforcement agencies to be on the lookout for “rightwing extremist activity, specifically the white supremacist and militia movements.”
“To compare public criticisms of the Tea Party with the tragic bombings, killings, beatings and cross burnings suffered by members of the NAACP in the Jim Crow South is simply disgraceful and shows a complete lack of respect for the dangers and sufferings of the civil rights movement,” said Paul S. Ryan, Campaign Legal Center Senior Counsel. “If a stack of press clippings showing politicians criticizing the actions of the Tea Party movement were to be deemed sufficient for this exemption, then by extension any group could qualify, from mom and pop organizations all the way up to the national Democratic and Republican parties.”
To read the comments filed by the Campaign Legal Center and Democracy 21, click here.
CBS 60 Minutes Segment Features Trevor Potter
On October 20, Campaign Legal Center President Trevor Potter was featured in a 60 minutes segment entitled “Washington’s Open Secret: Profitable PACs.” In the segment, Mr. Potter explains the evolution of Leaderships PAC’s and ultimately their widespread abuse by members of congress, many of whom use them as political slush funds.
To watch the 60 Minutes Segment, click here.
Stephen Colbert and Trevor Potter Deliver Dean’s Lecture at Yale Law School
On October18, Trevor Potter and Stephen Colbert delivered the Dean’s Lecture at Yale Law School. Before a packed house, the host of The Colbert Report and his attorney discussed the current political climate, the workings of his show, and creation of Colbert Super PAC which won a prestigious Peabody Journalism award. After the discussion portion, the floor was opened up for questions and answers.
Trevor Potter Named to the Adlai Stevenson Center Board
On October 9, Legal Center President Trevor Potter officially joined the Adlai Stevenson Center on Democracy Advisory Board. The Adlai Stevenson Center on Democracy is a non-profit organization that detects issues facing democratic forms of governments and devises realistic resolutions to these problems. Longtime former Indiana Congressman and Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Lee Hamilton also joined the Center’s Advisory Board at the same time as Mr. Potter.
Disclosure Debate at Vermont Law School Features Senior Counsel
On September 27, Campaign Legal Center Senior Counsel Tara Malloy participated as a panelist at the Vermont Law Review 13th Annual Symposium at Vermont Law School, “The Disclosure Debates: The Regulatory Power of an Informed Public.” Ms. Malloy’s a panel, “A Debate on Campaign Finance Disclosure,” weighed the public’s right to know the source of political campaign funding and the First Amendment.
Senior Counsel Participates in McCutcheon Panel at George Washington Law
On October 7, 2013, Legal Center Senior Counsel Tara Malloy participated in a panel discussion on McCutcheon v. FEC Supreme Court case hosted by the Political Law Society of George Washington University Law School. The panel featured speakers with a range of viewpoints on the merits of the case, including Jessica Ring Amunson of Jenner & Block, Trevor Burrus of the Cato Institute and Allen Dickerson of Center for Competitive Politics. Ms. Malloy presented the position of campaign finance reform groups on the case, and discussed the range of possible outcomes in McCutcheon and its potentially disastrous effects on American elections.
Trevor Potter Speaks at Fowler School of Law
On October 8, Campaign Legal Center President Trevor Potter was the speaker at the launch of this year’s Dialogue Series at Chapman University’s Fowler School of Law. Mr. Potter’s address was entitled “Representing Exceptional Clients in Election Law Cases.”
To watch the address, click here.
Executive Director Addresses American University Washington Program
On September 23, 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.
Czech Author Interviews Policy Director for Book on Lobbying
On October 3, Campaign Legal Center Policy Director Meredith McGehee met with Petr Vymetal from the Czech Republic, a Ph.D. in Political Science at University of Economics, Prague. Mr. Vymetal is working on a book focused on “The concept, practice and culture of lobbying in the English speaking countries”. McGehee and Vymetal discussed transparency, American lobbying laws, ethics rules and campaign finance practices.
Policy Director Meets with Mexican Researcher About Advocacy
On Thursday, October 17, Legal Center Policy Director Meredith McGehee met with Mara Torres Pinedo, from the Mexican Field Office of the National Democratic Institute. Ms. Torres Pinedo, a Fellow at Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, is researching advocacy strategies and best practices concerning transparency and open parliaments. Ms. McGehee and Ms. Pinedo discussed various advocacy strategies used by the Campaign Legal Center as well as other groups with whom Ms. McGehee has worked.