Awaiting Supreme Court’s Opinion on Whether Citizen Groups Can Speak Over Airwaves about Legislation or Legislators Close to an Election

"Awaiting Supreme Court’s opinion on whether citizen groups can speak over airwaves about legislations or legislators close to an election"

PRESS RELEASE: January 23, 2006

Media Contact:

Bradley A. Smith (614) 236-6317

Arlington, Va. – “Today the Supreme Court will decide whether citizens groups can speak over the airwaves about legislation and legislators close to an election, or whether campaign finance regulation has swallowed the First Amendment and forever separated Senators from the citizens they represent” said Bradley A. Smith, former Chairman of the Federal Election Commission and Senior Fellow to the Center for Competitive Politics (“CCP”), a non-profit organization that filed an amicus curiae brief in today’s case, Wisconsin Right to Life v. Federal Election Commission, No. 04-1581.

“We’re hopeful the Court will see what is at stake here, and draw a meaningful distinction between grassroots lobbying and electioneering. Senators pass laws at all times of the year. Their constituents shouldn’t be frozen out of the process just because an election approaches” said Smith, who also teaches law at Capital University Law School in Columbus, Ohio, and is of counsel to Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease. The Court will decide whether there is any exception for grassroots lobbying by non-profit organizations in the “electioneering communication” provisions of McCain-Feingold, which ban the broadcast ads of nonprofit corporations and labor unions that mention a candidate within 60 days of an election. “The Senate was in session and considering judicial filibusters during the sixty days in question. WRTL ran ads discussing the merits of those filibusters; lobbying not electioneering, on an issue of interest to its members for some time,” said Erik Jaffe, noted First Amendment expert, former Supreme Court clerk and counsel to the amici in the case. “In numerous cases, from medical marijuana to eminent domain abuse, the Court has taken a deferential approach and told citizens who do not like the result to raise such issues with their legislative representatives, not the courts. But that advice, to raise such issues with Congress, makes grassroots lobbying all the more important and deserving of protection. The Court cannot have it both ways.” Jaffe said.

Joining CCP in the brief were the Cato Institute, the Institute for Justice, the Reason Foundation, and the Goldwater Institute.

The Center for Competitive Politics is a non-profit organization founded in August 2005 by Smith and Stephen M. Hoersting, a campaign finance attorney and former General Counsel to the National Republican Senatorial Committee. CCP’s mission, through legal briefs, studies, historical and constitutional analyses, and media communication, is to educate the public on the actual effects of money in politics, and the results of a more free and competitive electoral process.

The Center for Competitive Politics is now the Institute for Free Speech.