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?”
If National Defense PAC is successful, the most significant effects will be on local, grassroots movements, who are less able to meet the burden of having to create multiple organizations in order to comply with the FEC’s byzantine speech regulations.
“The FEC has tried to make sure that the weakest political advocacy organizations, small upstarts without a large donor base, have nearly insurmountable bureaucratic and monetary road blocks,” Hayward said. “Americans who band together to advocate their political beliefs do not need the undue burden of jumping through bureaucratic hoops in order to exercise their First Amendment rights.”
Lead counsel for the plaintiffs is the legal team of Dan Backer of DB Capitol Strategies, Stephen Hoersting and Benjamin Barr. CCP’s legal team of Bradley A. Smith, Allison Hayward, and Allen Dickerson join as co-counsel in the case.
“We are delighted to have CCP bring their unique expertise in defending First Amendment rights to National Defense PAC’s stand against government control of political speech,” Hoersting said.
The Center for Competitive Politics is a non-profit organization which seeks to protect the First Amendment political rights of speech, assembly, and petition.