Win in SpeechNow.org!

Just in, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit has ruled in favor of SpeechNow.org, recognizing the right of citizens to associate for political purposes and to not be limited in how much they can contribute to independent citizen groups that want to urge the election or defeat of specific candidates.

More details to follow throughout the day…

Filed Under: Blog

After victory, conservatives mount new challenges to campaign finance limits

Filed Under: In the News

Widening impact of Citizens United; Circuit nullifies donor limit

Filed Under: In the News

Appeals Court Broadens Citizens United Ruling

Filed Under: In the News

RNC loses bid to raise unlimited ‘soft’ money

Filed Under: In the News

First Amendment victory: appeals court strikes limits in SpeechNow.org v. FEC

Today, the federal courts ruled once again to expand free speech rights by striking down government-imposed restrictions on participation in political campaigns. Citizens’ groups have now been freed to speak out in elections thanks to a unanimous “en banc” ruling today by all nine active judges on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.

This is the first major application of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which expanded the free speech rights of corporations and unions to participate in elections.

Holding that, under Citizens United, “the government has no anti-corruption interest in limiting contributions to an independent expenditure group,” Chief Judge David Sentelle, in an opinion joined by all eight other judges on the D.C. Circuit, struck down federal campaign finance laws that made it practically impossible for new and independent groups of individuals to join together and advocate for the election or defeat of political candidates.

“This is a tremendous victory for free speech,” said Institute for Justice Senior Attorney Steve Simpson, who argued the case before the D.C. Circuit. “This decision ensures that all Americans can band together to make their voices heard during elections.”

The Institute for Justice (IJ) and the Center for Competitive Politics (CCP) filed the First Amendment challenge to the laws in February 2008 on behalf of SpeechNow.org, a group of citizens that want to pool their money to run independent political ads for or against candidates based on their support for the First Amendment. SpeechNow.org accepts money only from individuals—not corporations or unions—and does not make any contributions to political candidates or parties.

Although lone individuals have long been permitted to spend unlimited amounts of money on independent political ads, two or more individuals who pool their money in order to do the exact same thing are considered “political committees” and are subject to a host of burdensome regulations, including limits on how much they may contribute to fund the group’s political speech.

David Keating, the president and treasurer of SpeechNow.org, said, “I started SpeechNow.org to give ordinary citizens a voice in politics. Thanks to this ruling, citizens’ groups across the country—no matter what issues they care about—finally have the freedom to hold politicians accountable.”

In the ruling, the Court held that limits on the amount of money SpeechNow.org could raise from its donors violated the First Amendment.  Noting that the ruling in Citizens United “simplifies the task of weighing the First Amendment interests implicated by contributions to SpeechNow,” the court concluded that, “the First Amendment cannot be encroached upon for naught.”

“We are grateful that the court recognized the importance of the right of association in politics and speech,” said Stephen M. Hoersting, CCP’s vice president and co-counsel for SpeechNow.org. “The court affirmed that groups of passionate individuals, like billionaires—and corporations and unions after Citizens United—have the right to spend without limit to independently advocate for or against federal candidates.”

Filed Under: Press Releases

States try to adapt to Supreme Court’s campaign finance ruling

Filed Under: In the News

SCOTUS book-banning anniversary

Today marks the one-year anniversary of a pivotal moment in campaign finance jurisprudence: the day the government admitted, via the deputy solicitor general, that it claimed the authority to censor books—and any media—of a political variety.

From a post-Citizens United op-ed Brad Smith authored in the AOL News opinion portal Sphere:

In March, Deputy Solicitor General Malcolm Stewart stood before the U.S. Supreme Court and argued that the Constitution gave the government the power to ban the distribution of a politically oriented movie if, like most movies, it was distributed by a corporation. Justice Samuel Alito replied, “That’s pretty incredible.”

By the time Stewart’s turn at the podium was over, he told the court that the government could restrict the distribution of books through Amazon’s digital book reader, Kindle; could prevent a union from hiring a writer to author a political book; and could prohibit a corporate publisher from publishing a 500-page book if it contained even one line of candidate advocacy.

Today, in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the Supreme Court said, “No, it can’t.”

Filed Under: Blog

Free speech for me, but not for thee

Filed Under: In the News

Colorado court unbridles political donations

Filed Under: In the News

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