Litigation Blog/Press Releases

Litigating: Federal Government Edition

Will someone please visit Public Integrity to determine what alien life forms are drafting its briefs?

I am personally gobsmacked at what I have seem out of the Department of Justice’s Public Integrity section this last two weeks.  For starters, apparently their lawyers could write an entire brief on the law relating to corporate contributions to candidates and NOT CITE LEADING AUTHORITY ON THEIR SIDE.  This litigation, US v. Danielczyk,  involved businessmen who reimbursed employees with corporate funds for making contributions – which is a big no-no.  The corporate contributions aspect of the charges is but a fraction of the total case, so the prosecution would proceed even with the judge’s holding – that corporate contributions are protected under Citizens United – left undisturbed.

For casual readers of campaign finance lore, you should know that the Supreme Court heard and rejected a challenge to the corporate contribution ban brought by an ideological non-profit corporation, in a case called FEC v. Beaumont.  That is, the most sympathetic corporation imaginable asked the Court to find the contribution ban unconstitutional.  The Court said no.

Filed Under: Blog, Completed Case, Litigation Blog/Press Releases, United States v. Danielczyk Other Links

Tillman Act Lives For Another Day?

Fear not, defenders of “Pitchfork Ben” Tillman; the law against corporate, union, and associational contributions may (sadly) remain on the books for a while longer.

Filed Under: Blog, Completed Case, Litigation Blog/Press Releases, United States v. Danielczyk Other Links

CCP Submits Amicus Brief in Montana Case

CCP submitted an Amicus Brief to the Supreme Court of the State of Montana last week regarding a case challenging the constitutionality of Montana’s law prohibiting independent corporate expenditures.  The ban was struck down by the Citizens United ruling, which found that independent corporate expenditures are protected under the First Amendment.

“Montana’s Attorney General continues to defend a law that blatantly contradicts Citizens United, expending precious state resources in the process,” said CCP Legal Director Allen Dickerson.  “Montana is the only state in America that did not conform to the ruling.”

The Attorney General’s brief argues that Montana is specifically vulnerable to corruption and their current laws, which would otherwise violate the First Amendment, are necessary to ensure that the state is not overrun by corporate interest.

“Being a resource-rich state is not grounds for exemption from the First Amendment,” said CCP President Sean Parnell.  “Resurrecting as a bogeyman the long gone Copper Kings doesn’t justify limiting political free speech in Montana.”

“This is a case where one of the fifty states believes it deserves an exemption from the First Amendment, relying on arguments that the Supreme Court has found unpersuasive,” said Dickerson. “The Montana Supreme Court should take this opportunity to emphasize that we live in a nation of laws, and that the Constitution applies everywhere, equally.”

Filed Under: Completed Case, Litigation Blog/Press Releases, Press Releases, Western Tradition Partnership v. Bullock Other Links, Montana

CCP joins National Defense PAC challenge

The Center for Competitive Politics (CCP) announced today that it joined the legal team representing National Defense PAC in its challenge to unconstitutional Federal Election Commission regulations.

The federal suit, Carey et al v. FEC, asks the FEC to acknowledge what the courts have already decided: that any political action committee may make contributions to federal candidates using limited funds while also engaging in independent expenditures using segregated funds raised for that purpose. The FEC has demanded that grassroots organizations jump through burdensome regulatory hoops just to speak out about candidates running for office.

National Defense PAC, created by retired Rear Admiral James J. Carey, submitted a request to the FEC for an advisory opinion on the matter in August 2010. Previous court rulings, most notably in SpeechNow.org v. FEC (SpeechNow.org was represented jointly by CCP and the Institute for Justice) and EMILY’s List v. FEC, uphold the principle that organizations may engage in both types of political speech and association so long as funds are properly segregated.

The FEC deadlocked on the issue, with three commissioners voting in support of National Defense PAC’s argument. In response to National Defense PAC’s suit, the FEC has argued against injunctive relief, claiming that the plaintiff’s First Amendment rights were not immediately, irreparably harmed based on the PAC’s ability to clone itself and create another organization to speak on its behalf. 

“The FEC response is typical of its disregard for those seeking clarity in their free speech rights,” said CCP Vice President of Policy Allison Hayward. “What they are really saying is, because of their belief that government alone is in the business of regulating when, where, and how people participate in politics, they don’t want to argue this case on the merits. When those are the facts, who can blame them?”

Filed Under: Carey v. FEC Other Links, Completed Case, Litigation Blog/Press Releases, Press Releases

FactCheck.gov

A controversy over political billboards in Ohio showcases a crystal clear example of how “reforming” politics by regulating political speech is a farce.

Yesterday, the Ohio Elections Commission agreed to allow a complaint by Rep. Steve Driehaus, a Democrat, against the Susan B. Anthony List, a pro-life women’s group, to move forward.

A three-member panel of the Commission found probable cause that SBA List violated Ohio’s false statements law by falsely claiming in an ad that Driehaus “voted for taxpayer-funded abortion,” as the Weekly Standard reported. The vote was 2-to-1; a Republican member voted against advancing the complaint while a Democratic member and an independent member voted to throw a mid-October political bomb into the race.

Filed Under: Blog, Current Case, Litigation Blog/Press Releases, SBA List v. Driehaus Other Links, Ohio

No ”Big Sky” for speech in Montana

In the wake of Citizens United, those jurisdictions that had previously imposed campaign spending bans on corporations have had to rethink their state or local laws.

Not the so-called “Last Best Place.”  The Montana Attorney General is defending that state’s expenditure ban.  According to AG Steve Bullock, the state’s 1912 law remains constitutional.  He is arguing that Montana has a different experience with corporate spending, and can show that spending corrupts politicians.

Now, I have said publicly a couple of times that I don’t think Citizens United necessarily controls in jurisdictions where history and experience indicate certain industries or kinds of corporations pose distinctive threats in politics.  Citizens United does require that those jurisdictions have to show that a BAN on independent spending is a tailored response to a genuine threat, and that’s a pretty difficult argument to make. 

What Montana is attempting to argue is that all corporations pose this threat.  Not explicitly – Bullock acknowledges that the state’s corporate expenditure ban comes out of a history of political struggles involving mining companies.  But the litigants in the present case involve a small painting business and a conservative advocacy group – both, as corporations, prohibited from making expenditures in Montana. 

What’s the justification for that?

Filed Under: Blog, Completed Case, Litigation Blog/Press Releases, Western Tradition Partnership v. Bullock Other Links, Montana

Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion in Yes on Term Limits v. Savage

Download Opinion

Filed Under: Completed Case, Litigation Blog/Press Releases, Yes on Term Limits v. Savage