CLC Update September 30, 2010

  1. RNC Challenge to Party Coordinated Spending Limits Rejected by Fifth Circuit
  2. Court Rejects Redistricting Reform Ballot Initiative in Florida
  3. Comments Filed by Legal Center in Post-Citizens United Contributions Limit AO
  4. Senate Falls One Vote Shot of Breaking Republican Filibuster of DISCLOSE Act
  5. Legal Center Send Letter to FEC Regarding Non-enforcement of Express Advocacy Disclosure Rules
  6. Reformers Call Leaders to Support the Office of Congressional Ethics
  7. Congress Introduces New Redistricting Reform Measure
  8. Bill to Curb Conflicts of Interest By State Election Officials Passes House
  9. Legal Center President Addresses Judicial Elections at Event with Justice O’Connor
  10. Legal Center Attorney Addresses Media Law Conference on Citizens United
  11. Associate Legal Counsel Speaks on Citizens United Panel at Lavender Law Conference
  12. Legal Center Attorney Addresses Brookings Institution Program
  13. Executive Director Speaks at Voting Rights Act Conference
  14. Executive Director Addresses American University Classes on Campaign Finance and Voting Rights
  15. Legal Center Staff Meets with University of Utah Graduate Students


RNC Challenge to Party Coordinated Spending Limits Rejected by Fifth Circuit

On September 10, 2010 the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit sitting en banc rejected the Republican National Committee’s (RNC) challenge to the party coordinated spending limits in Cao v. FEC.  The case was filed by the RNC and Rep. Ahn “Joseph” Cao (R-LA) in 2008, to challenge the party coordinated spending limits and the $5,000 political committee contribution limit as applied to party coordinated spending. 

In a statement, Campaign Legal Center counsel Tara Malloy praised the 11-5 decision, stating that despite assertions to the contrary, the ruling “shows that there is plenty of life left in federal campaign finance law.” 

The Legal Center, along with Democracy 21, filed an amici brief with the en banc Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals on April 19, 2010 to defend the constitutionality of the party coordinated spending limits. 


Court Rejects Redistricting Reform Ballot Initiative in Florida

On August 31, 2010 the Florida Supreme Court ruled against a last minute legal challenge to Florida’s redistricting reform ballot initiatives (Amendments 5 and 6) and rejected an attempt by the state legislature to have it’s own “poison pill” initiative (Amendment 7) reinstated to the ballot. 

In a statement, Campaign Legal Center Executive Director J. Gerald Hebert called the rulings “a victory for citizens over politicians seeking to retain what they see as their right to handpick constituents more likely to reelect them.” 

Under Amendments 5 and 6, politicians would not be allowed to favor one political party or incumbent when drawing district lines.  The latest challenge to the reform initiatives was brought by members of Florida’s congressional delegation, U.S. Representatives Corrine Brown (D-FL) and Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL).


Comments Filed by Legal Center in Post-Citizens United Contribution Limit AO

On August 27, 2010 the Campaign Legal Center, together with Democracy 21, filed comments with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) in response to an advisory opinion request (AOR 2010-20) by National Defense PAC (NDPAC).  NDPAC asked the FEC to extend recent court and FEC decisions allowing unlimited contributions to independent expenditure groups to also allow unlimited contributions to groups like NDPAC—which not only make independent expenditures, but also make contributions directly to candidates.  The CLC argued in its comments that the U.S. Supreme Court in California Medical Ass’n v. FEC, 453 U.S. 182 (1981) (CalMed), made clear that the federal law contribution limit is constitutional as applied to groups like NDPAC, that make contributions to candidates.  At its September 23 meeting, the FEC considered NDPAC’s request, but commissioners deadlocked 3-3 and were unable to adopt an advisory opinion.


Senate Falls One Vote Short of Breaking Republican Filibuster of DISCLOSE Act

On September 23, 2010, Senate supporters of the DISCLOSE Act fell one vote short of the 60 required to break a Republican filibuster and allow a vote on the bill.  In a statement, Campaign Legal Center Policy Director Meredith McGehee expressed disappointment with the outcome saying that it had “fallen victim to election season political posturing.”  She stressed that Congress would be wise to revisit the bill after Election Day in the face of overwhelming public support for meaningful disclosure legislation.

“Public disgust and calls for a congressional response will only increase as Americans nationwide will be forced this election season to sit through endless attack ads paid for by groups with patriotic names and completely anonymous backers,” said McGehee.

In the lead-up to the vote for cloture, reform groups sent letters to Senators Olympia Snowe (R-ME), Susan Collins (R-ME), and Scott Brown (R-MA) urging them to support the legislation.  In the end, the effort was unsuccessful as all three voted against the legislation. There are discussions underway about reintroducing a modified version of the bill after the November elections.  A House version of the bill passed in June.


Legal Center Sends Letter to FEC Regarding Non-enforcement of Express Advocacy Disclosure Rules

On September 13, 2010 the CLC, together with Democracy 21, sent a letter to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) seeking clarification regarding an FEC spokesperson’s comment to the media suggesting that the FEC is not enforcing a key “express advocacy” disclosure regulation.  FEC regulations contain a two-part definition of “expressly advocating”—which, in turn, determines whether a person or group buying a political ad must disclose the expenditure to the FEC.  The rules apply to (1) ads “using ‘magic words’ such as ‘vote for’ or ‘vote against’” and (2) ads that “could only be interpreted by a reasonable person as containing advocacy of the election or defeat of one or more clearly identified candidate(s).”  However, an FEC spokeswoman was quoted in a news article in August stating that a particular Chamber of Commerce ad “wouldn’t qualify as express advocacy because it doesn’t actually state to vote for or vote against a candidate.  It says ‘help her’ but it doesn’t say ‘vote for Jane Norton[.]”  The statement implies that the FEC will only deem an ad to be expressly advocating a candidate’s election or defeat if the ad contains the so-called magic words and will not require disclosure of meeting the second ‘only reasonable interpretation’ prong of the “express advocacy” test. 

The Legal Center wrote to the FEC requesting clarification as to whether the spokeswoman was accurately stating the Commission’s position regarding what constitutes “express advocacy” under federal law and, if so, requesting an explanation as to the legal basis for the Commission’s refusal to enforce its own regulation.  The FEC has not yet responded.


Reformers Call on Leaders to Support the Office of Congressional Ethics

On September 15, 2010 the Legal Center joined with other reform groups in urging both Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) to publicly support the beleaguered Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE).  Members of both political parties have become increasingly critical of the OCE and concerns have been raised that the office could be eliminated entirely or that its existing investigative powers might be curbed significantly in the next Congress. 

In the letter to the House Leaders, the reform groups stressed that the criticisms leveled against the OCE were unfair and unsupported by evidence.  The organizations emphasized that any action against the office would be a fundamental mistake on the part of House members and “would signal to the American people that House members are not serious about ethics and have little interest in enforcing the ethics rules that govern their actions.”

The reform groups include the Campaign Legal Center, Common Cause, CREW, Democracy 21, the League of Women Voters, Public Citizen and U.S.PIRG.


Congress Introduces New Redistricting Reform Measure

On September 29, 2010, Representative Devin Nunes (R-CA) introduced The Congressional Redistricting Formula Act to reform the manner in which Congressional Districts are drawn following the biennial census. The legislation, which would require states to follow certain criteria as they undertake congressional redistricting, is aimed at ending the excessive partisan gerrymandering that characterizes modern day redistricting plans. 

The Legal Center’s Executive Director J. Gerald Hebert, issued a statement calling the bill a “commonsense effort to curb some of the most blatant abuses of the redistricting process” and deserving of “broad bipartisan support, public attention, and a hearing – something that has been denied to numerous past efforts to reform redistricting system.”

The legislation, if enacted, would impact the post-2010 redistricting cycle.


Bill to Curb Conflicts of Interest By State Election Officials Passes House

On September 30, 2010 the U.S. House of Representatives passed The Federal Election Integrity Act (H.R. 512) sponsored by Rep. Susan Davis (D-CA) by a vote of 296-129.  The Legal Center supported the measure and urged Congress to move quickly to pass the legislation to address the inherent conflict of interest when top state election officials undertake direct political activity for candidates over whose election they have supervisory responsibility.  In a letter to House Administration Chairman Robert Brady (D-PA), Legal Center Executive Director J. Gerald Hebert and Policy Director Meredith McGehee stressed that “[i]n a democracy, it is essential that the citizens have faith in the election process and especially in the integrity of that process.”

Specifically, the bill would bar top elections officials from serving on an authorized campaign committee, using official authority to affect election results, or soliciting donations for a candidate running for Federal office.


Legal Center President Addresses Judicial Elections at Event with Justice O’Connor

On September 30, 2010, Campaign Legal Center President Trevor Potter addressed a conference, “Justice for Sale: The New Politics of Judicial Elections”, at the National Press Club and sponsored by Justice at Stake and the Committee for Economic Development.  Other speakers and panelists included Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, Texas Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson, Hugh Caperton (Caperton v. Massey), Professor John Sample and moderator Carrie Johnson of National Public Radio.


Legal Center Attorney Addresses Media Law Conference on Citizens United

On September 29, 2010, CLC Associate Legal Counsel Paul S. Ryan joined Floyd Abrams and Samuel Issacharoff in a panel discussion moderated by Lee Levine at the biennial Media Law Conference co-sponsored by the Newspaper Association of America, National Association of Broadcasters and the Media Law Resource Center.  Panelists discussed the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United, as well as developments in the law since the Court’s decision and likely future developments in corporate political activity and campaign finance law.


Associate Legal Counsel Speaks on Citizens United Panel at Lavender Law Conference

On August 28, 2010 CLC Associate Legal Counsel Paul S. Ryan attended the National LGBT Bar Association’s annual conference in Miami Beach and spoke on a panel about the Supreme Court’s 2010 decisions in Citizens United and Doe v. Reed and the future of disclosure laws in various aspects of elections.  The panel was moderated by Judge Steven Kirkland and Paul was joined on the panel by fellow attorneys Ciara Torres-Spelliscy and Adam Bonin.


Executive Director Speaks at Voting Rights Act Conference

On September 30, 2010, Executive Director J. Gerald Hebert spoke at a conference marking the anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, “A Vision for Voting: Celebrating 45 Years, Creating a Vision for the Future”, at the University of Baltimore School of Law.   Hebert participated in a panel focusing on campaign finance issues and reforms.


Legal Center Attorney Addresses Brookings Institution Program

On September 20, 2010, CLC Associate Legal Counsel Paul S. Ryan, together with former FEC Chairman Michael Toner of Bryan Cave LLP, addressed participants in the Brookings Institution’s week-long course: Inside Congress: Understanding Congressional Operations Congress and Campaign Finance Reform.  Ryan and Toner discussed the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United and the various legislative responses from members of Congress.


Executive Director Addresses American University Classes on Campaign Finance and Voting Rights

On September 14 and 21, J. Gerald Hebert, the Legal Center's Executive Director and Director of Litigation, addressed two different groups of students at American University in Washington, DC.  On September 21, Hebert gave an overview of campaign finance law to one group of visiting students, which included the goals and positive consequences of the Bipartisan and Campaign Reform Act.  A week earlier, on September 14, he gave an overview of the Voting Rights Act and the Supreme Court’s 2009 decision in NAMUDNO v. Holder to another group of students.


Legal Center Staff Meets with University of Utah Graduate Students

On September 1, 2010, the staff of the Campaign Legal Center met with a group of students from the University of Utah’s Masters of Public Administration Program who were visiting Washington, DC.   While in the city, the student group met with various public and private organizations, including the Campaign Legal Center, to discuss various issues, including ethics and accountability, third party governance, and redistricting reform, among other topics.