- 8th Circuit Rules on Minnesota’s Corporate Contribution Ban and Disclosure Laws
- McCutcheon v. FEC Oral Argument Heard by Three-Judge Panel
- Appeals Court Panel Overturns Van Hollen v. FEC
- Legal Center Defends Hawaii’s Disclosure Regs & Contractor Contribution Ban in 9th Circuit Brief
- Court Accepts Legal Center Brief Defending Contribution Limits Despite Opposition from Illinois Liberty PAC
- Trevor Potter Part of Intelligence Squared Super PAC Debate
- Legal Center, Reformers Urge House to Oppose Measure to End Convention Funding & Support Full Presidential Public Financing Fix
- Legal Center President Speaks to Fourth Annual Public Funds Forum
- Senior Counsel Teaches at George Washington Law School
8th Circuit Rules on Minnesota’s Corporate Contribution Ban and Disclosure Laws
On September 5, the en banc Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously found that a challenge to the State of Minnesota’s corporate contribution restriction was unlikely to succeed, but split on the constitutionality of certain aspects of the state’s disclosure law for corporate independent expenditures in Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life (MCCL) v. Swanson.
Minnesota law requires any association that wishes to make more than $100 in independent expenditures to register as a “political fund,” subject to registration, regular reporting and recordkeeping requirements. The Court of Appeals held that this law was impermissible “to the extent it requires ongoing reporting requirements from associations.” But the Court indicated that the Minnesota law is distinct from “event-driven” disclosure, such as the federal electioneering communications disclosure law, making clear that the decision has limited relevance to ad-specific reporting requirements.
“We applaud the Eighth Circuit decision to uphold Minnesota’s corporate contribution ban and much of the state disclosure law,” said Tara Malloy, Legal Center Senior Counsel. “But in questioning the ongoing reporting requirement and other minor organizational requirements of the state disclosure law, the Court of Appeals has disregarded the Supreme Court’s directive that disclosure laws be subject to only ‘exacting’ judicial scrutiny. It is important to note that this decision would do nothing to undermine the constitutionality of disclosure legislation, like the DISCLOSE Act, where reporting requirements are triggered by spending on specific political advertisements,”
To read the brief filed by the Campaign Legal Center and Democracy 21 in the Eighth Circuit, click here.
To read the court’s opinion, click here.
McCutcheon v. FEC Oral Argument Heard by Three-Judge Panel
On September 6, a three judge panel for the U. S. District Court for the District of Columbia heard oral arguments in McCutcheon v. FEC-- a case, brought by the Republican National Committee (RNC) and a contributor, challenging the constitutionality of aggregate campaign contribution limits.
Despite clear Supreme Court precedent upholding aggregate contribution limits, plaintiffs challenged 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 the Supreme Court decision Buckley v Valeo, aggregate limits were upheld as constitutional measures to protect against potential corruption. The plaintiffs argue these limits on aggregate contribution limits actually constitute limitations on campaign expenditures which are no longer allowed after Citizens United.
The Campaign Legal Center, along with Democracy 21, previously filed comments with the Federal Election Commission (FEC), opposing an Advisory Opinion Request (AOR 2012-14) filed by plaintiff McCutcheon in which he asked the agency to permit him to make contributions exceeding the aggregate contribution limits.
To read the amici brief filed by the Campaign Legal Center and Democracy 21, click here.
Appeals Court Panel Overturns Van Hollen v. FEC
On September 18, the Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia overturned a District Court decision in Van Hollen v. FEC that had ordered the agency to enforce donor disclosure requirements of nonprofit 501 (c)(4) advocacy groups, 501 (c)(6) business associations, and others making “electioneering communications.”
“This order effectively means that there will be no disclosure of the donors funding the tens of millions of dollars being spent on political advertising by 501(c)(4) groups like Crossroads GPS and Priorities USA in the 2012 election cycle,” said Executive Director J. Gerald Hebert. “In the wake of this decision we are once again left with all of the unlimited spending unleashed by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, but with virtually none of the disclosure promised by the narrow five Justice majority in the case.”
The original case was brought by Representative Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) challenging the FEC regulation that improperly narrowed the scope of McCain-Feingold law donor disclosure requirements for “electioneering communications.” On March 30, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled in favor of Rep. Van Hollen, holding that the FEC regulation was arbitrary, capricious and contrary to the federal campaign finance statue it purports to implement. The FEC did not appeal the decision, but an appeal was filed by two corporate funded non-profit groups that have intervened in the case.
The decision by the Circuit Court sends the case back to the District Court and directing it to provide the FEC an opportunity to revise the regulation in a rulemaking proceeding. If the FEC fails to issue a new rule, then district court will decide whether the existing rule is arbitrary and capricious, as Representative Van Hollen has argued.
The Campaign Legal Center is part of the legal team representing Rep. Van Hollen in this case, which is led by Roger Witten of WilmerHale. The legal team also includes lawyers from WilmerHale, Democracy 21 and Public Citizen.
To read the order issued by the Court of Appeals, click here.
To read Representative Van Hollen’s brief, click here.
Legal Center Defends Hawaii’s Disclosure Regs & Contractor Contribution Ban in 9th Circuit Brief
On September 19, the Campaign Legal Center filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit to defend Hawaii’s contractor contribution ban and disclosure regulations in Yamada v. Weaver. Plaintiff-Appellant A-1 A-Lectrician, Inc. (A-1), a government contractor, seeks to overturn Hawaii’s pay-to-play law, as well as to invalidate a range of disclosure requirements applicable to independent spending in state elections.
The Yamada case is part of a nationwide litigation offensive challenging a broad range of campaign finance laws at the federal, state and local levels. But disclosure and pay-to-play laws similar to Hawaii’s have been upheld across the country as the courts have consistently recognized the important government interest in preventing political corruption or the appearance of such corruption.
“A-1 is essentially asking the court to strike down Hawaii’s anti-corruption laws so it can contribute to officeholders while holding government contracts and can make independent expenditures while keeping the public in the dark about its activities,” said Tara Malloy, Legal Center Senior Counsel. “The undisclosed political activities proposed by A-1 would undermine public trust in government and pose precisely the potential for corruption that led to the challenged laws’ enactment.”
To read the Campaign Legal Center’s brief, click here.
Court Accepts Legal Center Brief Defending Contribution Limits Despite Opposition from Illinois Liberty PAC
On September 18, a federal court in Illinois accepted an amici brief by the Campaign Legal Center, Chicago Appleseed and the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform defending state contribution limits over the objections of Illinois Liberty PAC, the plaintiff in the case. The Legal Center had originally submitted the brief last week in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, with the assistance of local counsel David R. Melton and Thomas Rosenwein, in a challenge to Illinois’ contribution limits.
Illinois Liberty PAC v. Madigan challenged the state’s $50,000 limit on PAC contributions to candidates, its $5,000 limit on contributions from individuals to candidates and its $10,000 limit on contributions from individuals to a PAC. Plaintiffs claim these limits violate their First and Fourteenth Amendment rights to free and freedom of association. Federal PAC may accept only $5,000 from individuals a mere tenth of the Illinois cap and the Supreme Court has upheld Missouri state contribution caps ranging from $275 to $1,075.
“Illinois Liberty PAC is asking the court to ignore Supreme Court precedent and strike down contribution limits far higher than those previously upheld by the Supreme Court,” said Paul S. Ryan, Legal Center Senior Counsel. “Contribution limits have repeatedly been upheld in the interest of preventing corruption or the appearance of corruption and it is ironic that this challenge is being brought against the laws of a state where the last two Governors have gone to jail for corruption.”
To read the Campaign Legal Center’s brief, click here.
Trevor Potter Part of Intelligence Squared Super PAC Debate
On September 12, Legal Center President Trevor Potter was part of the much anticipated Intelligence Squared debate, “Two Cheers for Super PACs: Money in Politics is Still Overregulated.” Potter teamed up with Jonathan Soros of the Roosevelt Institute to take on David Keating of the Center for Competitive Politics and Jacob Sullum of Reason Magazine.
In an Oxford-style debate, Potter and Soros argued against the motion that money in politics is still overregulated, while Keating and Sullum argued for it. Both Potter and Soros offered clear and convincing explanations as to the negative consequences of unregulated spending. At the end of the debate, the live audience voted Potter & Soros the winners of the debate.
To watch a recording of the debate on the Intelligence Squared website, click here.
To listen to the debate on NPR, click here.
To read the Bloomberg News account of the debate, click here.
Legal Center, Reformers Urge House to Oppose Measure to End Convention Funding & Support Full Presidential Public Financing Fix
On September 19, the Legal Center and a number of reform groups urged House Members to vote against H.R. 5912, a bill introduced by Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) that would repeal public funding for the national conventions. In a letter to every Member, the groups said they “oppose this legislation and its piecemeal approach to dealing with convention financing.”
The letter went on to support recent legislation introduced by Representatives David Price (D-NC), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Walter Jones (R-NC) (H.R. 414). H.R. 414 would “revise the presidential system to focus on matching small contributions with multiple public funds for the primary and general elections.”
The groups signing onto the letter with the Legal Center included Americans for Campaign Reform, Brennan Center for Justice, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, Common Cause, Democracy 21, League of Women Voters and Public Citizen.
Legal Center President Speaks to Fourth Annual Public Funds Forum
This week, Legal Center President Trevor Potter traveled to Park City, Utah for The Future of Corporate Reform 2012 Public Funds Forum. The conference educated public funds representatives on practices to “create long-term value, shape corporate reform and repair the markets.” Mr. Potter was invited to speak on Citizens United and the ways in which corporate interests are starting to influence governmental power. The Forum included several other prominent speakers, including former Secretary of State and retired U.S. Army General Colin Powell and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani.
Senior Counsel Teaches at George Washington Law School
On September 6, Legal Center Senior Counsel Tara Malloy was a guest instructor at the George Washington University School of Law. Ms. Malloy instructed Professor Spencer Overton’s Election Law class for the day and discussed recent developments in campaign finance law and their impact on the 2012 election.