The First Amendment protects the right to privately associate with others, and to jointly advocate concerning the issues of the day. Yet, in the state of Wisconsin, an elected district attorney was permitted to conduct a lengthy, sprawling investigation into Petitioners and their allies, including armed, late night raids on private homes, seizure of private property, and gag orders preventing the targets from speaking. All this was premised upon the notion that discussion of the most prominent legislative issue in Wisconsin, collective bargaining reform, constituted an illegal effort to support candidates for office. When Petitioners sought to halt this investigation, and to vindicate their First Amendment rights in federal court, the Seventh Circuit closed the courthouse door.
Wisconsin’s John Doe investigation, and others like it, may be convened on the thinnest of pretexts. Once targeted, affected organizations must functionally end their political activities. Moreover, by their very nature, investigations concerning illegal coordination will target the most sensitive information: internal communications, membership lists, and conversations with political allies.
This Court has recognized the harm imposed when political speakers are denied effective judicial review of state actions that violate First Amendment rights. The state investigation here is such a case, and involves the type of injury for which 42 U.S.C. § 1983 demands a federal forum.
In the News
By M.D. KittleMADISON, Wis. — The John Doe investigation into dozens of conservative groups and Gov. Scott Walker’s campaign is “sinister,” causing “irreparable harm,” even to those right-of-center organizations not targeted in the secret probe.That’s the assessment of the Wisconsin-based John K. MacIver Institute for Public Policy in a motion filed Friday in U.S. Supreme Court.MacIver is requesting to file an amicus, or friend of the court, brief in support of conservative targets of the politically charged probe who say they want to hold John Doe prosecutors officially and personally accountable for an abusive and overreaching investigation that violated their First Amendment rights.Other limited government groups also filed amicus briefs Friday, including the Center for Competitive Politics, the Cato Institute, the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty and the Cause of Action Institute.
By Kimberley A. StrasselMost family charities exist to allow self-made Americans to disperse their good fortune to philanthropic causes. The Clinton Foundation exists to allow the nation’s most powerful couple to use their not-so-subtle persuasion to exact global tribute for a fund that promotes the Clintons.Oh sure, the foundation doles out grants for this and that cause. But they don’t rank next to the annual Bill Clinton show—the Clinton Global Initiative event—to which he summons heads of state and basks for a media week as post-presidential statesman. This is an organization that in 2013 spent $8.5 million in travel expenses alone, ferrying the Clintons to headliner events. Those keep Mrs. Clinton in the news, which helps when you want to be president.It’s a body that exists to keep the Clinton political team intact in between elections, working for the Clintons’ political benefit. Only last week it came out that Dennis Cheng, who raised money for Mrs. Clinton’s 2008 bid, and then transitioned to the Clinton Foundation’s chief development officer, is now transitioning back to head up Mrs. Clinton’s 2016 fundraising operation. Mr. Cheng has scored $248 million for the foundation, and his Rolodex comes with him. The Washington Post reported this week that already half the major donors backing Ready for Hillary, a group supporting her 2016 bid, are also foundation givers.
By Rebecca BallhausFormer U.N. ambassador and possible presidential hopeful John Boltonlaunched a nonprofit group this week aimed at pushing the Republican Party to hone its message on national security issues in the 2016 campaign.The organization, launched ahead of Mr. Bolton’s trip to the early-nominating state of New Hampshire Friday, would further bolster the fundraising infrastructure he built during the 2014 campaign cycle.Among the new nonprofit and his two existing political-action committees, Mr. Bolton plans to raise a total of $20 million between now and the 2016 election. The political-action committees raised a combined $7.5 million in the 2014 campaign.
Arlington, Va.—Free legal services to protect constitutional rights “are not a campaign contribution.” With this common-sense ruling, the Superior Court for Pierce County, Wash., today granted an important victory for free speech in the case of Institute for Justice v. State of Washington. The court issued a summary judgment and injunction that halted the government’s attempt to undermine America’s proud tradition of pro bono civil rights litigation by regulating legal services for such cases as if they were campaign contributions.Washington filed a complaint against the Institute for Justice’s client, Robin Farris, and her political committee, Recall Dale Washam Campaign (RDW), because they had received free legal services to challenge a Washington law that violated their free speech rights.
By Sean Robinson
Free legal advice to a recall campaign isn’t a campaign contribution — neither is free legal advice in pursuit of that argument, and state campaign finance regulators can’t claim otherwise.That idea, the heart of a ruling issued Friday in Pierce County Superior Court, appears to end a four-year battle between backers of a 2011 county recall campaign and the state Public Disclosure Commission that has climbed to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and back. It also adds a footnote to the stormy tenure of ex-Pierce County Assessor-Treasurer Dale Washam, the target of an unsuccessful recall effort in 2011.“The court correctly recognized that pro bono representation in civil rights cases cannot constitutionally be treated as political contribution,” said Bill Maurer, managing attorney in the Washington branch of the Institute for Justice, a Virginia-based public interest law firm. The institute is one of the parties in the case.
By Marc CaputoThat’s when the proposal was made by Wasserman Schultz’s staff, Morgan said: If he stopped the criticisms, she would be willing to back his new medical-marijuana proposal.Wasserman Schultz told her hometown newspaper Friday morning that the allegation was “outrageous” and the story was “false.”“Wasserman Schultz said there were no emails,” the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported.But Morgan released an email chain and related text messages that he said showed the medical-marijuana initiative’s political consultant, Ben Pollara, was in contact with Wasserman Schultz’s political adviser, Jason O’Malley, who received an email concerning the alleged deal.
By Julie BykowiczWASHINGTON — Jeb Bush recently called himself a “gladiator” because he has been on the road so much this year raising money for a possible presidential run. With a goal of banking $100 million by the end of March, the former Florida governor’s intense schedule — 60 fundraisers in three months — is paying off: He has locked down much of 2012 Republican nominee Mitt Romney’s fundraising team in the three weeks since Romney decided not to make another run.The latest bold-faced name to move from Team Romney is New York Jets owner Woody Johnson, who the New York Times reported on Thursday has been telling donors that he will back Bush. It’s a significant coup. Four years ago, Johnson led Romney’s fundraising in the New York region. At least half of Romney’s former New York and Chicago bundlers are also on board, Republican sources have said.“Nobody is going to raise as much money as Jeb Bush,” said Fred Malek, a top Republican fundraiser based in Washington who is staying neutral for now. “Book that. It’s just not going to happen.”
By Paul BlumenthalAccording to a Friday filing with the Federal Election Commission, Griffin gave $324,000 to the Republican National Committee in January.This huge contribution was split among four separate accounts, two of which were made possible by rule changes slipped into the December omnibus budget bill and one of which could expand due to that legislation. Griffin gave $32,400 to the RNC’s central election account and $97,200 each to the committee’s building, recount and convention funds.
By Scott WongSpeaker John Boehner’s reelection committee agreed to pay $4,300 in fines for failing to return more than $57,000 in excess contributions from individual donors and political action committees during the 2012 cycle.Friends of John Boehner, the Ohio Republican’s campaign committee, also agreed to have a representative of the committee participate in a Federal Election Commission conference, webinar or other program along with and implementing “internal controls” consistent with the FEC’s guidelines and best practices, the FEC said in a statement Friday describing the agreement.“Large committees routinely handle these issues,” said Cory Fritz, Boehner’s campaign spokesman. “We take compliance with FEC rules and regulations seriously, and have taken corrective actions.”
By Alison NoonHELENA – A Great Falls representative is proposing that candidates for the Montana Legislature be allowed to receive more money from political action committees.Republican Rep. Steve Fitzpatrick introduced House Bill 502 in the House State Administration Committee Friday.The bill would increase the amount that state Senate candidates can receive from PACs from $2,150 to $5,500, and the amount that House candidates can receive from $1,300 to $3,300.
TOPEKA — After an election cycle in which the amount of money spent by outside groups dwarfed the amount spent by the candidates’ campaigns, themselves, Kansas lawmakers from both parties are pressing to increase campaign contribution limits in an effort to keep up.The House Elections Committee unanimously endorsed a bill Wednesday that would at least double contribution limits to campaigns for state offices. The bill would also double the amount one could give to political parties, from $25,000 to $50,000 at the national party level and from $15,000 to $30,000 at the state level. Meanwhile, campaign limits for county-wide offices in counties of at least 75,000 residents would rise from $500 to $2,500.