April 3, 2020 •

Justices Decline Challenge to Seattle Democracy Vouchers

United States Supreme Court Building

The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear a challenge to Seattle’s first-in-the-nation democracy voucher program for public financing of political campaigns. The court denied the challenge brought by two local property owners arguing the program violated the First Amendment by forcing them, […]

The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear a challenge to Seattle’s first-in-the-nation democracy voucher program for public financing of political campaigns.

The court denied the challenge brought by two local property owners arguing the program violated the First Amendment by forcing them, through their tax dollars, to support candidates they don’t like.

In 2015, Seattle voters decided to tax themselves $3 million a year in order to receive four $25 vouchers they can donate to participating candidates in city elections.

The state Supreme Court unanimously upheld the voucher program last year.

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January 13, 2020 •

US Supreme Court Denies Appeal: SEC Pay-to-Play Rule Remains

United States Supreme Court Building

On January 13, the U.S. Supreme Court issued an order denying review of an appeal concerning the legality of a Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) pay-to-play rule, allowing that rule to stand. Previously, on June 18, 2020, a federal appellate […]

On January 13, the U.S. Supreme Court issued an order denying review of an appeal concerning the legality of a Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) pay-to-play rule, allowing that rule to stand.

Previously, on June 18, 2020, a federal appellate court had affirmed a lower court’s finding that the pay-to-play rule was legal.

In New York Republican State Committee v. SEC, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit found the SEC’s Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) Rule 2030 constitutional.

The rule prohibits a placement agent from accepting compensation for soliciting government business from certain candidates and elected officials within two years of having contributed to such an official’s electoral campaign or to the transition or inaugural expenses of a successful candidate.

The New York Republican State Committee and the Tennessee Republican Party had argued the SEC did not have authority to enact the rule, the order adopting the rule was arbitrary and capricious because there was insufficient evidence it was needed, and the rule violated the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States.

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November 26, 2019 •

Supreme Court Questions Alaska Contribution Limit

United States Supreme Court Building

The U.S. Supreme Court is raising doubts about Alaska’s $500-a-year limit on contributions to political candidates. The justices are ordering a lower court to take a new look at the issue. The court says in an unsigned opinion on Monday […]

The U.S. Supreme Court is raising doubts about Alaska’s $500-a-year limit on contributions to political candidates.

The justices are ordering a lower court to take a new look at the issue.

The court says in an unsigned opinion on Monday that federal judges who rejected a challenge to the contribution cap did not take into account a 2006 high court ruling.

The 2006 ruling invalidated low-dollar limits on political contributions in Vermont.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote a separate opinion expressing that Alaska’s reliance on the energy industry may make the state unusually vulnerable to political corruption and justify the low limits.

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May 20, 2019 •

Supreme Court Declines to Hear Corporate Contribution Case

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On Monday, the Supreme Court of the United States announced it would decline to hear a challenge to a Massachusetts law. The law in question bans corporate contributions to campaigns, parties and candidate-focused political action committees. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial […]

On Monday, the Supreme Court of the United States announced it would decline to hear a challenge to a Massachusetts law.

The law in question bans corporate contributions to campaigns, parties and candidate-focused political action committees.

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court unanimously rejected the challenge, brought by 1A Auto Inc. and 126 Self Storage Inc., in September.

The suit claimed disparate treatment by banning for-profit corporate contributions while allowing significant contributions by unions and nonprofits.

After the Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United, state law was updated to allow corporate spending for independent expenditures but not political contributions.

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey applauded Monday’s decision not to hear the case for the integrity of state elections.

Opponents of the law are hopeful the Supreme Court will take up the issue in another case.

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February 22, 2019 •

Supreme Court Won’t Hear Montana Case

This week, the Supreme Court of the United States declined to hear a case challenging the state’s Disclose Act, leaving in place a lower court ruling of constitutionality. The Disclose Act requires more heightened reporting by groups seeking to influence […]

This week, the Supreme Court of the United States declined to hear a case challenging the state’s Disclose Act, leaving in place a lower court ruling of constitutionality.

The Disclose Act requires more heightened reporting by groups seeking to influence elections, commonly referred to as dark-money groups.

The campaign disclosure act, challenged by Montanans for Community Development on first amendment grounds, has been an important policy for Gov. Steve Bullock and his administration.

This comes at a time when the Montana House of Representatives is considering House Resolution 2, a bipartisan resolution urging Congress to propose a constitutional amendment to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision.

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September 17, 2018 •

Chief Justice Roberts Stays FEC Campaign Finance Disclosure Regulation

On September 15th, Chief Justice of the United States John G. Roberts, Jr. issued an order staying a lower federal district court’s order invalidating a Federal Election Commission (FEC) campaign finance disclosure regulation. Robert’s stay was decided on Saturday after […]

On September 15th, Chief Justice of the United States John G. Roberts, Jr. issued an order staying a lower federal district court’s order invalidating a Federal Election Commission (FEC) campaign finance disclosure regulation. Robert’s stay was decided on Saturday after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit denied an emergency motion for the stay made earlier the same day.

On August 3, a federal district court had ruled a campaign finance disclosure regulation, followed for decades by the FEC, failed to uphold disclosure requirements required by a federal statute. Chief Judge Beryl A. Howell of the United States District Court for The District of Columbia issued an order, in CREW v. FEC, vacating 11 C.F.R. §109.10(e)(1)(vi), but stayed the vacatur for 45 days to give time for the FEC to issue interim regulations comporting with the statutory disclosure requirements of 52 U.S.C. §30104(c). The court also has allowed the FEC 30 days to change an earlier FEC dismissal to conform with the court’s ruling.

The case originated because of independent expenditures made in a 2012 Ohio senate race by the non-political social-welfare nonprofit Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies (Crossroads GPS), an affiliate of the American Crossroads Super PAC. Crossroads GPS did not report donors when reporting its independent expenditures, while it acknowledged receiving contributions over $200, arguing the donors did not donate funds directly tied to any specific reported expenditure, as the FEC interpreted 11 C.F.R. §109.10(e)(1)(vi) to require. Non-political committees making independent expenditures over $250 in a calendar year must comply with disclosure obligations closely analogous to those imposed on political committees.

The vacated regulation required the identification of each person who made a contribution in excess of $200 to the person filing a disclosure report, including for non-political 501(c)(4) non-profit entities making independent expenditures, if the contribution was made for the purpose of furthering the reported independent expenditure. The district court found the regulation, as construed and applied by the FEC, did not require the disclosure of donors, absent the donor’s express agreement that the funds be used for the specific expenditures reported to the FEC, even though the donor may otherwise support and in fact contribute for the purpose of funding those expenditures.

The district court found the regulation impermissibly narrows the mandated disclosure in 52 U.S.C. §30104(c)(2)(C), which requires the identification of such donors contributing for the purpose of furthering the non-political committee’s own express advocacy for or against the election of a federal candidate, even when the donor has not expressly directed that the funds be used in the precise manner reported.

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June 8, 2017 •

Special Concurrent Session Called in North Carolina

On June 7, Gov. Roy Cooper called a 14-day special session for North Carolina lawmakers to redraw district voting maps. The session begins June 8 and will run concurrently with the regular session. The special concurrent session comes after the […]

On June 7, Gov. Roy Cooper called a 14-day special session for North Carolina lawmakers to redraw district voting maps.

The session begins June 8 and will run concurrently with the regular session.

The special concurrent session comes after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 28 districts unconstitutional due to racial gerrymandering.

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June 6, 2017 •

Supreme Court Rules North Carolina Districts Racially Gerrymandered; Remedial Special Election Vacated

On June 5, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed a lower court ruling that 28 state House and Senate Districts in North Carolina were racially gerrymandered, while also vacating the lower court’s order for a special election in 2017 for one-year […]

On June 5, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed a lower court ruling that 28 state House and Senate Districts in North Carolina were racially gerrymandered, while also vacating the lower court’s order for a special election in 2017 for one-year terms to address the issue.

The court ruled that the special election remedy was not properly analyzed by the lower court. The matter has been returned to the lower court, which could call another special election or order new districts in time for the regular cycle of elections in 2018.

The Supreme Court’s decision comes just two weeks after the court found two of the state’s U.S. Congressional districts to also be racially gerrymandered.

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May 23, 2017 •

Supreme Court Affirms Dismissal of Challenge of FEC Soft Money Regulations

On May 22, the United States Supreme Court affirmed a lower court’s finding of summary judgement upholding the constitutionality of the Federal Election Campaign Act’s regulation of the use of so-called soft money. In Republican Party of Louisiana v. FEC, […]

On May 22, the United States Supreme Court affirmed a lower court’s finding of summary judgement upholding the constitutionality of the Federal Election Campaign Act’s regulation of the use of so-called soft money.

In Republican Party of Louisiana v. FEC, the United States District Court for the District of Columbia rejected a challenge to federal campaign finance provisions requiring state and local political parties to abide by federal regulations concerning certain political activities such as get-out-the-vote and voter registration drives and the resulting reporting requirements.

In response to an appeal from the plaintiffs, the Supreme Court affirmed the District Court’s decision.

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February 27, 2017 •

Supreme Court Affirms, Without Written Opinion, Lower Court’s Ruling Regarding Campaign Finance Disclosure

Today, the United States Supreme Court affirmed electioneering communication disclosure requirements under the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA). In Independence Institute v. FEC, the Supreme Court affirmed, without a written opinion, a lower court’s summary judgement against Independence Institute, a […]

US Supreme CourtToday, the United States Supreme Court affirmed electioneering communication disclosure requirements under the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA).

In Independence Institute v. FEC, the Supreme Court affirmed, without a written opinion, a lower court’s summary judgement against Independence Institute, a Colorado based 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization. Independence Institute argued the BCRA’s disclosure requirements for electioneering communications were overbroad and violated the First Amendment.

Electioneering communication is defined as any broadcast, cable, or satellite communication referring to a clearly identified federal candidate, made within 30 days of a primary election or 60 days of a general, special, or runoff election, and targeted to the relevant electorate.

On November 3, 2016, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia had rejected the Independence Institute’s challenge to the BCRA’s electioneering communication provisions and granted the Federal Election Commission’s motion for summary judgment.

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January 11, 2017 •

Supreme Court Issues Stay on Special Elections in North Carolina

Yesterday, the U.S Supreme Court issued a temporary stay on a lower court order to hold special elections in November 2017 for North Carolina General Assembly seats in unconstitutionally gerrymandered districts. The temporary stay of the lower court’s decision will […]

US Supreme CourtYesterday, the U.S Supreme Court issued a temporary stay on a lower court order to hold special elections in November 2017 for North Carolina General Assembly seats in unconstitutionally gerrymandered districts.

The temporary stay of the lower court’s decision will remain in place until the justices decide whether to consider a previously filed appeal from state officials. If the Supreme Court hears the case and overturns the ruling, the special elections would be canceled and current districts restored for the 2018 election.

 

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October 14, 2016 •

U.S. Supreme Court Declines to Hear Colorado Campaign Finance Case

The U.S. Supreme Court recently denied the state of Colorado’s petition for review of a 2016 federal appeals court ruling regarding state campaign finance rules. In Coalition for Secular Government v. Williams, the United States Court of Appeals for the […]

Flag_of_ColoradoThe U.S. Supreme Court recently denied the state of Colorado’s petition for review of a 2016 federal appeals court ruling regarding state campaign finance rules.

In Coalition for Secular Government v. Williams, the United States Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit affirmed a lower court’s ruling declaring the state’s issue committee regulatory framework unconstitutional as applied to the plaintiff, but declined to address the facial validity of the Colorado Constitution’s $200 threshold for issue committee reporting. The strength of the public’s interest in issue committee disclosure depends, in part, on how much money the issue committee has raised or spent.

The appeals court agreed with the 9th Circuit’s characterization of the sliding scale by noting “. . . the value of this financial information to the voters declines drastically as the value of the expenditure or contribution sinks to a negligible level. As the monetary value of an expenditure in support of a ballot issue approaches zero, financial sponsorship fades into support and then into mere sympathy” [Appellate Case: 14-1469; see Canyon Ferry Rd. Baptist Church of E. Helena, Inc. v. Unsworth, 556 F.3d 1021, 1033 (9th Cir. 2009)].

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April 6, 2016 •

Supreme Court Declines Challenge to Mississippi Campaign Finance Law

The Supreme Court declined to hear a challenge to a Mississippi campaign finance law requiring individuals or groups to report expenditures of $200 or more to support or oppose a ballot measure. Five residents of Mississippi sued the state in […]

Mississippi-StateSeal.svgThe Supreme Court declined to hear a challenge to a Mississippi campaign finance law requiring individuals or groups to report expenditures of $200 or more to support or oppose a ballot measure.

Five residents of Mississippi sued the state in 2011, claiming the reporting requirement was too burdensome and infringed on their rights of free speech and association.

A federal judge agreed, stating such requirements overly burdened smaller groups, but was overturned on appeal.

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April 4, 2016 •

One Person, One Vote Ruling by U.S. Supreme Court

Today, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously decided a state or locality may draw its legislative districts based on the total population of all people rather than based on only the population of registered voters. In Evenwel v. Abbott, appellants argued […]

EvenwelToday, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously decided a state or locality may draw its legislative districts based on the total population of all people rather than based on only the population of registered voters.

In Evenwel v. Abbott, appellants argued apportionments based on total population for drawing Texas Senate legislative districts diluted their votes in relation to voters in other state Senate districts. They argued such dilution was a violation of the one-person, one-vote principle of the Equal Protection Clause.

While the Court found the apportionment was constitutionally drawn, the decision, written by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg for six of the Justices, explicitly stated it does not address whether “states may draw districts to equalize voter-eligible population rather than total population.” Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito each issued separate concurring opinions. The Court decision is available here.

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