Archives for February 2010

Video of last weeks ACS panel on Citizens United

The Center for Competitive Politics covered the panel in two posts last week: “Lawyers offer mixed reviews of post-Citizens United leg. at ACS event” and “ACS panel features strong supporters of free political speech.”

Filed Under: Blog

The Case for Corporate Political Spending

Filed Under: In the News

Opening brief filed in petition privacy case

Protect Marriage Washington, represented by campaign finance superlawyer Jim Bopp, filed its brief in Doe v. Reed yesterday. The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear the petition privacy case April 28.

In Sept. 2009, a federal court prevented the release of the names of 138,500-some individuals who signed a petition for a ballot initiative to overturn a domestic-partnership law passed by the state legislature. Protect Marriage, which organized the petition effort, sued. Bopp argues that the experience of Washington activists and opponents of gay marriage in California’s Proposition 8 campaign shows a record of harassment and intimidation targeted at people who are forced to register their personal information publicly with the state in order to exercise their First Amendment rights.

“Public disclosure laws have been used to harass and intimidate voters,” Bopp said in a press release. “The First Amendment protects citizens engaged in political speech from being forced to reveal their identity to ensure that intimidation does not makes its way into the campaign toolbox. No one should have to endure death threats in order to stand up for what they believe in.”

Filed Under: Blog, Washington

Colo. Supreme Court strikes down campaign finance restrictions

Earlier this week the Colorado Supreme Court struck down a controversial “pay-to-play” law. The Court ruled that Amendment 54, enacted by referendum in 2008 as a state constitutional amendment, violated the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Covington & Burling LLP issued an excellent analysis of the ruling today:

A diverse group of plaintiffs-including the chancellor of a state university, a board member of a nonprofit corporation, a labor union, and a local city council member-argued that this law violated the First Amendment by excessively burdening their right to political expression via political contributions. The Supreme Court held that significant portions of the law were unconstitutionally overbroad, including the complete ban (as opposed to a cap) upon contributions that reached to all levels of government regardless of a recipient’s ability to influence contract awards or a recipient’s relationship with the contractor.

The memo also considered broader implications for “pay-to-play” statutes in other jurisdictions:

Despite this sweeping defeat for Colorado’s pay-to-play law, we expect that states will continue to enact and enforce pay-to-play laws. Statewide pay-to-play laws in Connecticut and New Jersey recently withstood First Amendment challenges on the basis that the interest in preventing corruption and its appearance was heightened in light of recent scandal in those states. Targeted pay-to-play laws in Louisiana (aimed at casinos) and Georgia (aimed at insurance companies) as well as federal pay-to-play laws and regulations that apply to government contractors, brokers, and dealers of municipal securities also have withstood constitutional challenge. The Supreme Court of Colorado’s opinion reinforces the idea that states and courts may consider a properly crafted pay-to-play law to be an appropriate means to mitigate political corruption and quid pro quos in politics.

InvestmentNews reported on questions surrounding a pending Securities Exchange Commission pay-to-play rulemaking setting federal restrictions on contributions to state and local officials responsible for awarding bonding contracts.

Filed Under: Blog, Colorado

Lawyers offer mixed reviews of post-Citizens United leg. at ACS event

The campaign finance experts assembled at the American Constitution Society’s panel discussion about Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission seemed conflicted on the prospects for a congressional response.

BNA: Money & Politics Report focused on this angle in its report today ($):

Top election lawyers were sharply divided Feb. 24 in assessing the prospects for congressional legislation responding to the Supreme Court’s latest campaign finance decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (2683 Money & Politics Report, 1/22/10)… lawyers representing business interests said Congress faced thorny practical and constitutional issues and expressed doubts that legislators would be able to agree on proposals responding to the court’s ruling.

Meanwhile, lawyers for unions, liberal groups, and Democrats said they thought there was a good chance that new laws boosting disclosure of campaign-related spending and limiting campaigning by foreign-owned companies would be adopted in the wake of the court ruling.

Legal Times also covered the event.

Filed Under: Blog

Shredding the First Amendment?

The bloviating about the Citizens United decision has demonstrated, if anything, an extraordinarily weak understanding of the campaign finance landscape. Starting with the President’s outlandish claims in his State of the Union Address, followed by the fear-mongering by congressmen (such as the ineffable Alan Grayson), we’ve been getting the feeling that the lambasting of the Supreme Court has a lot to do with nearing midterm elections and very little to do with the facts.

Cue Sen. Chris Dodd’s reaction: Yesterday, he joined Sen. Tom Udall in introducing a constitutional amendment that allows Congress to regulate every avenue of campaign spending. This includes (but would not be limited to) the issue at hand in Citizens United: independent expenditures—spending by individuals or groups, not coordinated with candidates, to speak out about candidates in our elections.

Filed Under: Blog, Connecticut, New Mexico

Does Citizens United ruling spell the end for pay-to-play laws? Attorneys disagree


Filed Under: In the News

ACS panel features strong supporters of free political speech

The American Constitution Society, the leading liberal legal organization, hosted a remarkable and informative panel on the impact of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission today at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

Notably, the panel included four defenders of the Court’s majority opinion (in whole or in part) who spoke from a real-word perspective: experience as campaign finance lawyers, FEC staffers and congressional committee aides. The First Amendment Four – Jan Baran of Wiley Rein; Laurence Gold of AFL-CIO and Lichtman, Trister & Ross; James Portnoy of Kraft Foods and Joseph Sandler of Sandler, Reiff & Young – dominated the discussion by explaining why the Supreme Court affirmed long-standing First Amendment jurisprudence in Citizens United and why the decision will not lead citizens like lemmings off a cliff onto a rock-bed of corporate-controlled politics.

Filed Under: Blog

States weigh campaign-finance changes

Filed Under: In the News

Repealing the First Amendment

Filed Under: In the News

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