CCP files amicus brief urging Supreme Court to take campaign finance case

September 18, 2015   •  By Scott Blackburn
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Alexandria, VA – The Center for Competitive Politics (CCP), America’s largest nonprofit dedicated solely to defending First Amendment rights to political speech and assembly, today announced that it filed an amicus brief with the US Supreme Court in the case of Yamada v. Snipes. In the case, A-1 A-Lectrician, Inc., an electrical construction company, paid for newspaper advertisements and was required by the state of Hawaii to register as a PAC or political committee. A-1 sued and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Hawaii’s law, contrary to the precedents set in the Citizens United and Buckley decisions. A-1 has asked the Supreme Court to review the decision.

“Hawaii’s law hampers speech with complex paperwork burdens that generate no useful information,” said David Keating, President of CCP. “This law makes it more difficult for groups of people to speak in the public square, and we urge the Supreme Court to take this case and strike down this junk disclosure law.”

To read CCP’s brief, click here.

Excerpt from the brief: 

In upholding the constitutionality of Hawaii’s law, the Ninth Circuit has ignored this Court’s decisions permitting only minimal reporting burdens on independent speech. In addition, by forcing a group to give up its right to engage in even the most incidental public electoral speech or else become a PAC, the Ninth Circuit has contributed to a circuit split concerning the burdens the First Amendment allows the government to impose on independent speakers.

Furthermore, no “sufficiently important governmental interest” justifies imposing PAC status on Petitioner. The Ninth Circuit ignored this Court’s precedent holding that independent speech does not implicate the anti-corruption interest, see, e.g., Citizens United, 558 U.S. at 360, and that there can be no anti-circumvention interest because there are no valid contribution limits that Petitioner’s newspaper advertisement expenditures could possibly implicate. That the Ninth Circuit included such inapplicable interests in its burdens calculus demonstrates the depth of its error.

Finally, while the public’s informational interest may sometimes justify some disclosure, it cannot justify the PAC regulations imposed here. Disclosure burdens applied against independent speakers may permissibly reveal information about the financial constituencies of candidates for office, i.e., information about who is doing the speaking and who may have funded the speech. Additional recordkeeping, registration, and reporting provisions shed no additional light on candidates’ financial constituencies. Such regulation serves only to impose unnecessary, additional costs upon individuals and groups like Petitioner, and thus to stifle speech that candidates and PACs cannot control.

Scott Blackburn

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