SpeechNow.org v. FEC
In March 2010, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit struck down the federal contribution limits as applied to “independent expenditure committees,” finding that the Supreme Court’s analysis in Citizens United required it to “conclude that the government has no anti-corruption interest in limiting contributions to an independent expenditure group.” The court, however, upheld the political committee disclosure requirements as applied to such groups. These independent expenditure only committees are today commonly referred t to as “Super PACs.”
In February 2008, SpeechNow.org filed suit in the U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia challenging the federal contribution limits and disclosure requirements as applied to political committees that make only independent expenditures in elections. In July 2008, the district court denied plaintiffs’ request for a preliminary injunction, and plaintiffs appealed the decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. However, the court of appeals stayed the case to await the outcome of the then pending Citizens United case.
In January 2010, the Supreme Court in Citizens United struck down the prohibition on corporations making independent expenditures in elections.
The government declined to appeal the D.C. Circuit decision. SpeechNow.org petitioned for certiorari for review of the Court’s decision on the challenged disclosure provisions, but the Supreme Court denied certiorari on November 1, 2010.
The CLC and Democracy 21 filed an amici brief in 2008 with the district court to defend the contribution limits and CLC filed two amici briefs in 2009 with the D.C. Circuit.