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Colorado closes free speech case, changes law, pays $220K in attorney’s fees

Alexandria, VA – Attorneys for Colorado and the Center for Competitive Politics (CCP) filed a notice in federal court today ending a free speech case that began more than four years ago. It’s the final chapter in a federal lawsuit that saw Colorado’s ballot issue disclosure law partially invalidated under the First Amendment, and forced […]

Filed Under: Blog, Coalition for Secular Government v. Gessler Other Links, CSG v. Gessler, In the News Our Cases, Newsroom, Press Releases, CSG v. Williams, Current Cases (Litigation), Colorado

Indy Star: Vets group petitions Supreme Court to hear robocall case (In the News)

By Fatima Hussein
A group called Patriotic Veterans Inc. is appealing a 7th Circuit Court ruling that said Indiana has a legitimate interest in blocking unwanted, or annoying, automatically dialed phone calls.
The leaders of the veterans advocacy group say there’s a more important principle at stake: the First Amendment right of free speech…
In 35 states, the Patriotic Veterans group places automated calls meant to influence public policy on issues “that matter to veterans and other voters,” its president Paul Caprio told IndyStar. The calls “encourage veterans and others to address their grievances to government officials and facilitate contact between voters and their representatives.”
But Indiana law, particularly Indiana’s Automatic Dialing Machine Statute, bars prerecorded telephone calls that contain political messages…
The statute precludes Patriotic Veterans from placing robocalls even to those who wish to receive them. Violating the law’s prohibition on political speech is a Class C misdemeanor punishable by 60 days in prison and a fine for each call.
Caprio said he sees Indiana’s regulation on robocalls as a way “to protect legislators who don’t want the annoyance of hearing their constituents’ voice.”

Filed Under: In the News, In the News Our Cases

Indiana Lawyer: Political group takes ‘robocall’ law challenge to SCOTUS (In the News)

By Dave Stafford
A political advocacy group that wants to strike down Indiana’s ban on robocalls has asked the Supreme Court of the United States to overturn the state law it calls the most restrictive in the nation.
“Who is a court to tell us how we have First Amendment rights to communicate with people?” asked Paul Caprio, President of Patriotic Veterans Inc., which is challenging the state law banning political groups from using automatic dialing technology to call Hoosiers.
The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against Patriotic Veterans and upheld I.C. §24-5-14-5 in January…
Illinois-based Patriotic Veterans staged a news conference Tuesday at the Indianapolis office of Barnes & Thornburg LLP to announce the filing of a petition for certiorari asking the U.S. Supreme Court to take its appeal of the 7th Circuit’s ruling…
The group in a statement said Indiana’s statute “reverses centuries of Supreme Court precedents by elevating commercial speech over First Amendment protected political/issue advocacy speech.”

Filed Under: In the News, In the News Our Cases

Bloomberg BNA: D.C. Circuit Judges Wary of Challenge to Campaign Contribution Limits (In the News)

By Kenneth P. Doyle
A constitutional challenge to per-election limits on campaign contributions faced skeptical questioning from nearly all the judges of the federal appeals court in Washington during a March 29 hearing.
Chief Judge Merrick Garland of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit repeatedly asked attorney Allen Dickerson whether a decision in favor of the challengers in the case, known as Holmes v. Federal Election Commission (D.C. Cir., No. 14-05281, argued 3/29/17), could threaten the whole structure of campaign contribution limits, which has been in place for decades at the federal level and in most states…
Defending the current structure of contribution limits was FEC attorney Erin Chlopak, who faced fewer questions than Dickerson from the appellate judges. Chlopak argued that the existing contribution- limit system should be easy for the court to uphold because a series of Supreme Court decisions, including the landmark 1976 case Buckley v. Valeo and other rulings, have consistently upheld the constitutionality of contribution limits.

Filed Under: Allen Dickerson, In the News, In the News Our Cases

More Soft Money Hard Law: Investigating the “Structure” of Contribution Limits: “Elementary, Holmes” (In the News)

By Bob Bauer
The FEC will be defending the “structure” of the contribution limits this week in the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. The case, Holmes v. Federal Election Commission, tests the constitutionality of the “per election” limits as applied to a donor’s choice to participate only in the one-the general-election. If a donor skips a primary, and wishes only to contribute in the general, she now cannot give the full amount allowed for the election cycle cycle, $5400, but only half of that: $2700, the “per election” limit for the general. The Holmes plaintiffs’ point is that this bifurcation of the limits serves no legitimate anti-corruption purpose…
The problem presented by the bifurcation of the limits is worsened by the messiness of its application. Incumbents and other largely unopposed candidates do well under this system, collecting money for primaries they don’t have to compete in and transferring the money to their general election accounts…
Defending this arrangement just adds to the inefficiencies and cost of compliance with the “regular” campaign finance system, and to the reasons why candidates and parties flee from it.

Filed Under: In the News, In the News Our Cases

Weekly Standard: The New Assault on Privacy (In the News)

By James Piereson
On February 27 the Supreme Court turned down an appeal in a case from Colorado that would have decided whether nonprofit organizations that run issue advertisements during election campaigns can be compelled to disclose the names and addresses of their donors…
In the Colorado case, the Independence Institute, a 501(c)(3) charitable organization, proposed to run a series of “issue advertisements” during the 2014 Senate campaign urging the state’s two senators to support a federal bill to reform guidelines for criminal sentences. The proposed ads addressed only this narrow issue and did not endorse or oppose any candidate for election. Nevertheless, under the McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Act of 2002, the organization would have been required to make public its list of donors because the ads, though they were focused narrowly on issues, mentioned the name of a senator on the ballot within 60 days of the election…
According to the Center for Competitive Politics, more than 95 percent of all funds spent on election campaigns are subject to donor disclosure.

Filed Under: In the News, In the News Our Cases, Quotes CCP

Colorado Independent: US Supreme Court to Colorado think tank: Disclose your donors or don’t run these ads (In the News)

By Corey Hutchins
The outspoken think tank director said he saw the case as a good, clean test for the U.S. Supreme Court. So, with help from the Washington, D.C.-area Center for Competitive Politics- its motto: Campaign Freedom- up to the nation’s highest court the case went…
The High Court upheld the lower federal court ruling against the group Monday, without comment, essentially saying the lower court got it right.
“We are disappointed that the Supreme Court chose to forgo full consideration of this important appeal, and instead summarily affirmed the lower court,” said Center for Competitive Politics legal director Allen Dickerson in a statement. “We look forward to continuing our efforts to defend the right to free speech and association.”
Dickerson told The Independent he still believes there is tension between the court’s blessing of laws that regulate advocacy for or against candidates and its rulings in favor of “privacy of association” in other contexts. The radio ads were not attack ads against a candidate, he says, but rather a discussion about pending legislation that merely mentioned an officeholder who happened to be running for reelection.

Filed Under: Allen Dickerson, In the News, In the News Our Cases, Quotes CCP

Bloomberg BNA: Supreme Court Backs FEC Disclosure Rules (In the News)

By Kenneth P. Doyle
Federal Election Commission disclosure rules for political ads known as electioneering communications have been upheld as constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court (Independence Institute v. FEC, U.S., 16-743, affirmed 2/27/17)…
Lawyers for the Independence Institute, led by Allen Dickerson of the nonprofit Center for Competitive Politics (CCP), have acknowledged in court filings that previous rulings have “routinely” upheld FEC disclosure requirements. But, the challengers argued that this case presented “an opportunity to reverse this trend and broadly safeguard” a right to fund some political messages anonymously.
The institute’s lawyers argued that disclosure requirements can violate First Amendment free speech guarantees, unless the government has a strong interest in disclosure. They said the government’s “informational interest is particularly weak” in this case because it involved a radio ad focused on a legislative issue and didn’t mention anything about an election…
The center’s chairman, Bradley Smith, a former Republican FEC commissioner, said uncertainty over the limits of disclosure law has led to passage of “intrusive laws that provide little or no value to the public, and enable official and unofficial harassment of speakers.”

Filed Under: Allen Dickerson, Brad Smith, In the News, In the News Our Cases, Quotes CCP

Jurist: Supreme Court upholds advertising disclosure requirement during elections (In the News)

By Justin Cosgrove
The US Supreme Court affirmed the judgment in Independence Institute v. Federal Election Commission in a summary disposition on Monday. The case revolved around whether Congress may require organizations engaged in policy issues and unconnected to campaigns, to report to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) and publicly disclose their donors pursuant to the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002. The Independence Institute wanted to run an ad in support of a bill that would give federal judges discretion for sentencing of non-violent crimes. In their advertisement, they mentioned the name of a sitting senator and were therefore qualified as an “electioneering communication.” Under such a designation, the Institute would be required to report to the FEC and disclose their donors. Upon challenging this provision before the US District Court for the District of Columbia, the court found in favor of the FEC. With their summary disposition, the justices affirmed the district court’s ruling without discussion.

Filed Under: In the News, In the News Our Cases

Associated Press: Supreme Court upholds disclosure requirement for issue ads (In the News)

The Supreme Court has upheld a requirement that forces groups to say who is paying for issue advertising directed at candidates in an approaching election.
The justices on Monday affirmed a lower court decision in a case involving ads that mention candidates but don’t call for the election or defeat of one.
The case involved a Colorado think tank called the Independence Institute and ads that it wanted to run in 2014 that mentioned Colorado Democratic senators Mark Udall and Michael Bennet. Udall lost his 2014 re-election bid, while Bennet won a second term in 2016. The Independence Institute said it wanted to run a similar spot in 2016.
The group objected to revealing the names of its largest contributors. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., supported the group’s Supreme Court bid.

Filed Under: In the News, In the News Our Cases

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