February 10, 2012 •

Montana Case Upholding Corporate Ban on Independent Expenditures Appealed to US Supreme Court

Citizens United

Supreme Courts and Citizens UnitedA Montana Supreme Court’s decision upholding the state’s law prohibiting independent political expenditures by a corporation related to a candidate, in spite of Citizens United v. FEC, has been appealed to the US Supreme Court.

According to the SCOTUSblog, Justice Kennedy has called for a response from the state of Montana by 5 p.m. on Wednesday, February 15.

For a detailed explanation of the appeal, see Lyle Denniston’s article on SCOTUSblog at http://www.scotusblog.com/2012/02/new-citizens-united-sequel-2.

In December of last year, the Montana Supreme Court found Citizens United v. FEC did not compel invalidating the state’s 1912 Corrupt Practices Act.

In the Court’s majority opinion in Western Tradition Partnership, Inc. v. Attorney General of the State of Montana, the Court wrote, “The corporate power that can be exerted with unlimited political spending is still a vital interest to the people of Montana.”

The Court concluded the state, because of its history and the history of the Act, has a compelling interest to impose statutory restrictions, emphasizing the Citizens United decision allows restrictions to be upheld if the government demonstrates a sufficiently strong interest.

In making its argument, the decision asserts that a “material factual distinction between the present case and Citizens United is the extent of the regulatory burden imposed by the challenged law.” The Court found in contrast to the “complexity and ambiguity” of restrictions for federal PACs, PACs formed and maintained in the state are “easily implemented” by the filing of “simple and straight-forward forms or reports.”

Attorney James Bopp, Jr., counsel of record for the petitioner, argues for the US Supreme Court to summarily reverse the Montana decision, writing, “The lower court’s refusal to follow Citizens United is such an obvious, blatant disregard of its duty to follow this Court’s decisions that summary reversal is proper.”

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January 9, 2012 •

Supreme Court Upholds Ban on Political Contributions from Foreign Residents

Summary Disposition

United States Supreme Court BuildingFederal campaign contributions are prohibited from individuals living in the U.S. but not admitted for permanent residency, the Supreme Court affirmed today.

The Supreme Court, through a summary disposition, upheld a lower court ruling finding aliens who are in the United States on temporary work visas may not make political contributions to federal candidates or political parties, as proscribed in 2 U.S.C. §441e and its implementing regulations.

Bluman v FEC was brought on behalf of two plaintiffs, a doctor in residency and a recent law school graduate, both citizens of other countries. They argued the Court’s earlier Citizens United v FEC decision mandated allowing financial political contributions by the plaintiffs as part of their protected free speech.

In upholding the law and denying the plaintiff the relief they sought, the lower court had written in its decision, “It is fundamental to the definition of our national political community that foreign citizens do not have a constitutional right to participate in, and thus may be excluded from, activities of democratic self-government.”

Today’s one-line summary disposition by the Supreme Court affirms the lower court’s holding without judicial opinion.

Photo of the U.S. Supreme Court Building by Joe Ravi on Wikipedia.

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June 27, 2011 •

U.S. Supreme Court Strikes Down Arizona Clean Elections System

In a 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down an Arizona campaign finance law that offered extra public funding to state political candidates who faced increased opposition spending.

Arizona Clean ElectionsThe Citizens Clean Elections Act, passed by voters in a 1998 ballot initiative, gave candidates extra money if they face well funded opponents that opted out of the state election financing system.

Candidates also could qualify for greater public financing based on political spending by independent political groups that ran advertisements opposing their candidacy or supporting other candidates.

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote “laws like Arizona’s matching funds provision that inhibit robust and wide-open political debate without sufficient justification cannot stand.”

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March 23, 2011 •

Supreme Court Denies Cao v. FEC

Coordinated Expenditure Limits Remain

The Supreme Court has denied a petition for a writ of certiorari challenging the limits a political party can spend in coordination with a candidate, leaving in place the $5,000 limits on party contributions to candidates. In Cao v. FEC, the Republican National Committee had argued making their expenditures in coordination with Louisiana Congressman Anh “Joseph” Cao, as opposed to making completely independent expenditures for him, constituted both Representative Cao’s and the RNC’s free speech.

The District Court Eastern District of Louisiana, following a prior judgment from the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit on other grounds, found 2 U.S.C. §441a(a)(2)(A), limiting the amount of the contributions, constitutional. The RNC’s appeal had been filed by James Bopp, Jr.

This post is follows two previous Lobby Comply articles by George Ticoras:

$5,000 Contribution Limit Upheld” from November 22, 2010

RNC Argues for Coordinated Campaign Spending” from December 13, 2010

Photo of the U.S. Supreme Court Building inscription by UpstateNYer on Wikipedia.

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February 24, 2011 •

U.S. Supreme Court Rejects Appeal Challenging Washington’s Campaign Finance Disclosure Law

Ninth Circuit Court Decision Upheld

The U.S. Supreme Court rejected an appeal by Human Life of Washington challenging Washington’s campaign finance disclosure law.  The Supreme Court let stand without comment a Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that upheld the state’s disclosure requirements for political committees, independent expenditures and political advertising.

Human Life of Washington challenged the requirements as a violation of its free-speech rights, as it sought to keep donors in a 2008 campaign opposing an assisted-suicide ballot measure confidential.   The group argued that it was not required to register as a political-action committee and disclose donors because its advertisements did not specifically reference the ballot measure.

Photo of the U.S. Supreme Court by UpstateNYer on Wikipedia.

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December 13, 2010 •

RNC Argues for Coordinated Campaign Spending

Appeal filed by James Bopp

The Republican National Committee has filed a petition for a writ of certiorari with the Supreme Court challenging limits on the amounts a political party can spend in coordination with candidates. Filed on the RNC’s behalf by James Bopp, Jr., the RNC argues the expenditures constitute the party’s free speech.

RNC Chairman Michael Steele said, “The right of political parties to express their members’ views about their candidates for office while also working directly with those candidates to help elect them is crucial to a healthy democracy.”

The case being appealed, Cao v. FEC, found contribution limits constitutional as applied to the RNC.

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November 2, 2010 •

Supreme Court Rejects Campaign Committee Appeal

Compliance Reporting Still Required Even With Unlimited Contributions

Seal of the U.S. Supreme CourtThe Supreme Court has rejected an appeal seeking to eliminate a political committee’s disclosure and administrative requirements. In SpeechNow.org v FEC, the appellants had argued the requirements violate the First Amendment.

The Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia found individual contribution limits to the committee unconstitutional. It additionally held independent expenditure–only groups like SpeechNow must still comply with organizational, administrative, and reporting requirements in the law.

SpeechNow is an unincorporated nonprofit association which supports candidates for federal office who share its views on First Amendment rights of free speech and freedom to assemble.

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October 26, 2010 •

Supreme Court Declines to Suspend Maine Campaign Finance Law

On Friday, October 22, 2010, the Supreme Court of the United States denied an application for an emergency writ of injunction in the pending case of Respect Maine PAC v. McKee.

Supreme CourtIn their application, the plaintiffs, represented by James Bopp, Jr., the Indiana attorney who helped launch the landmark Citizens United v. FEC litigation, requested an order blocking portions of Maine’s campaign finance law which provides matching for candidates as well as the part of Maine law capping contributions to gubernatorial candidates at $750. By the time the plaintiff’s motion reached the high court for the second time, it had been denied three times: by Associate Justice Stephen Breyer, Circuit Justice for the First Circuit, by the First Circuit Court of Appeals, and by the Maine District Court where the litigation originated.

The plaintiff’s last resort to enjoin the law prior to the November 2nd election was the emergency writ of injunction to the Supreme Court which was presented to Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy who then referred it to the Supreme Court for consideration. The writ’s denial was not unexpected as the Supreme Court has not granted such a motion for two decades.

Photo of the Supreme Court by UpstateNYer on Wikipedia.

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October 13, 2010 •

Supreme Court Declines to Hear Long Beach Appeal

PACs will continue to be allowed to receive unlimited contributions for independent expenditures.

Long BeachThe U.S. Supreme Court decided not to hear the city’s appeal of a lawsuit brought by the Long Beach Area Chamber of Commerce over the city’s campaign finance rules involving independent expenditures.

Long Beach appealed to the high court after the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals affirmed a lower court ruling stating the Chamber’s PAC may receive unlimited contributions to fund their independent campaign expenditures in city elections.

Photo of Long Beach by WPPilot on Wikipedia.

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August 12, 2010 •

Highlighted Site of the Week – “The Highest Court in the Land”

Virtual tours, audio tapes, and shooting hoops at the Supreme Court.

Seal of the U.S. Supreme CourtI found another Web site where you can easily get lost reading for hours. Get a coffee and some cookies and head to the Oyez Project.

The Oyez Project describes itself as a multimedia archive devoted to the Supreme Court of the United States and its work.

Oyez.org has taken on the ongoing task of digitally hosting the audio recordings from the court. Recordings began in 1955. Many of the recordings previously were tucked away as reel-to-reel tapes in the National Archive. The Oyez Project is working to allow visitors the chance to listen to the recordings online.

You can find a thorough archive of Supreme Court cases ranging from Chisholm v. Georgia in 1793, all the way to Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, and more recent cases, too. They have a tag cloud so you can browse cases by topic, or you can find cases by the year.

If you want a biography of a justice (past or present), the Oyez Project has it. You can even see a Youtube video of Sonia Sotomayor being sworn in as an Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.
The Roberts Court, 2009

I think the most fun feature of the Oyez Project is the virtual tour of the Supreme Court. From your computer, you can walk up the steps to the bronze doors at the entrance, and then go into the Great Hall, the courtroom, and even the Justice’s chambers! (Justice Ginsburg has a teddy bear on her side table and Justice Breyer has quite a book collection.)

If you have a fast internet connection, each room only takes a moment to load. The images are high resolution and beautiful. Just don’t move your mouse too fast, or you will get dizzy making the room spin around. Yes, I tried it.

What is not on the virtual tour, however, is a different “Highest Court in the Land.” Did you know there is a gym on the top floor of the Supreme Court building that houses a basketball court where justices, clerks, and assorted other players can shoot hoops? Our Research Associate David Dobo alerted me to this great secret.

Be sure not to play while court is in session, though, because that is prohibited!

Here is a fun read from the Los Angeles Times about the basketball court:

“Legal Eagles Tip Off in ‘Highest Court in the Land,” by Gina Holland, Associated Press.

Have fun!

Photo of the sign courtesy of Sharada Jambulapati.

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June 30, 2010 •

News You Can Use – “Supreme Court Affirms Ban on Soft Money”

News from the Supreme Court ruling.

The U.S. Supreme Court affirmed without comment a lower court ruling upholding a ban on soft-money contributions to political parties.

From The Hill – “Supreme Court affirms ban on soft money,” by Russell Berman  6-29-2010

From The New York Times – “Supreme Court Affirms a Ban on Soft Money,” by Adam Liptak  6-29-2010
photo from CC-BY-SA-3.0/UpstateNYer at Wikipedia.

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