Litigation

Litigation

The Center for Competitive Politics’ litigation team works to fulfill CCP’s mission to promote and defend First Amendment rights to free political speech, assembly, and petition through strategic litigation.

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To that end, the team represents clients across the country, on a pro bono basis, in order to secure the clients’ First Amendment rights. Through 2016, CCP has represented over 20 clients whose rights to free speech and free association have been infringed by state or federal laws. Legal Director Allen Dickerson and his team of experienced attorneys have fought for their clients’ rights at all levels of the litigation process, from initial filing all the way to the Supreme Court. CCP boasts a diverse array of clients from across the political spectrum who share one common trait – a willingness to fight to protect their constitutional rights. Despite the difficulty in challenging entrenched power in states and the federal government, CCP takes on the tough cases that are necessary to protect the rights of citizens.

CCP’s litigation team also engages in extensive amicus curiae efforts to provide their top-level expertise to courts. In doing so, CCP regularly teams with top legal scholars and organizations across the country in order to provide the courts with unique experience or perspectives that otherwise would be lost. Through 2016, CCP has written over 55 amicus briefs.

From Nevada to Delaware, Colorado to Washington D.C., CCP’s litigation team has worked tirelessly to defend the First Amendment. To learn more about CCP’s cases and efforts, check out some of CCP’s cases below.

For information about CCP’s current cases, click here.

For information about CCP’s completed cases, click here.

For information about CCP’s amicus work, click here.

Featured Litigation

Calzone v. Missouri Ethics Commission

Can a state government fine you simply for talking to state legislators? That is the question at the center of Calzone v. Missouri Ethics Commission.

Mr. Calzone’s difficulties with state regulators began on Election Day in 2014, when the Society of Government Consultants, a lobbyist guild in Missouri, filed a complaint with the Missouri Ethics Commission. The complaint claimed that, when Mr. Calzone spoke with legislators during his advocacy, he was acting as a paid lobbyist – and that his failure to register as a lobbyist with the state was against the law, subjecting him to fines and possibly even jail time.

CCP’s Legal Team has stepped in to defend Mr. Calzone against these charges, representing Calzone in September when his case came before the Missouri Ethics Commission. The Ethics Commission has argued that because Mr. Calzone has publicly mentioned his involvement with Missouri First – a nonprofit organization with no financial resources – he must register as a lobbyist and list Missouri First as the organization for which he is speaking.

Center for Competitive Politics v. Harris

Does California’s attorney general have the power to ban a nonprofit organization from asking for donations unless it hands over a list of its past supporters for inspection, even if the group has no involvement in elections? That simple question is at the heart of Center for Competitive Politics v. Harris.

Coalition for Secular Government v. Williams

Colorado resident Diana Hsieh, a doctor of philosophy, organized the non-profit Coalition for Secular Government with her friend Ari Armstrong in order to promote a secular understanding of individual rights, including freedom of conscience and the separation of church and state. Because of unconstitutionally vague state laws, confusion as to what constitutes political speech and what is covered under a press exemption, and a refusal by the state to abide by a federal court order, Hsieh and CSG have found it nearly impossible to carry out the activities of a small non-profit group without fear of running afoul of complex Colorado campaign finance laws.

Holmes v. FEC

Can Congress impede political participation and association by forcing an individual to split her political donations between primary and general elections? Federal law forces individuals to split their campaign contributions on a per-election basis. Thus, in 2014, a donor was forced to split her donation into $2,600 for the primary election and $2,600 for the general. This rule impedes the political participation of a donor who only wants to support her party nominee—and avoid wasting her donation on the intra-party squabbles of a primary election. CCP filed a lawsuit on behalf of a Florida couple who are challenging this law, saying that the per-election requirement mandated by Congress force them to either potentially waste $2,600 on a candidate for the party nomination or give up exercising their constitutional rights to the full extent allowed by law.

Independence Institute v. FEC

Can a think tank run ads advocating for public policy without first registering with the federal government and disclosing its donors? That is the question at the core of Independence Institute v. FEC. The Independence Institute, a Colorado think tank, wants to run genuine issue ads that happen to mention a name of a political candidate. Campaign finance law currently requires that the Independence Institute register with the government and report certain donors to the FEC in order to be able to run the issue ads. While speech related directly to campaigns may require disclosure, genuine issue speech does not fall under this category. In this case, CCP is defending the right to speak on public policy issues without first reporting its activities in a government database and disclosing donors who give to causes they believe in.

The November Team, et al., v. Joint Commission on Public Ethics

The New York State Joint Commission on Public Ethics is attempting to force public relations firms and other individuals who communicate with the media about public policy to register as lobbyists. This case raises the simple question whether a state agency can, consistent with the First Amendment, declare that private communications with the press constitute ‘lobbying,’ and then mandate persons who so communicate to submit to a burdensome regulatory regime that exposes them to criminal prosecution or fines for non-compliance. The answer, emphatically, is “no.”

Patriotic Veterans v. Indiana

Indiana law bars prerecorded telephone calls that contain a political message, which violates the free speech rights of advocacy organizations such as the Illinois-based Patriotic Veterans, Inc. The group planned political calls in advance of the 2010 general election.