Campaign Legal Center & Democracy 21 File Brief in Real Truth About Obama’s Continuing Bid to Overturn Donor Disclosure Requirements

CLC Staff
Oct 27, 2011
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Today, the Campaign Legal Center and Democracy 21 filed an amici brief with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in The Real Truth About Obama (RTAO) v. FEC.   This case currently concerns the much-contested “subpart (b)” definition of “expressly advocating” (11 C.F.R. § 100.22(b)), as well as the FEC’s methodology for determining when a group has campaign activity as its “major purpose,” an important step in the larger determination of political committee status.

“This appeal is just one of many cases filed nationwide in an attempt to undermine existing disclosure laws and remove any sort of transparency or accountability for those making ‘independent expenditures’ on behalf of candidates,” Legal Center Associate Counsel Tara Malloy stated.  “The unstated goal of these challenges is a system where the sponsors and the candidates know who is buying the television ads, but the public is left completely in the dark.  Were this goal to be achieved, it would represent a grave threat to the overall health of our representative democracy.”

“This lawsuit represents an effort to eliminate campaign finance disclosure requirements that have long been deemed essential to protect against corruption and to provide the public with information they have a basic right to know,” according to Democracy 21 President Fred Wertheimer.  “In our brief, we make clear that the plaintiffs in this case are attacking the constitutionality of campaign finance standards developed by the Supreme Court itself.  The Court of Appeals is bound to follow the law as developed by the Supreme Court and should do so by affirming the lower court decision and ignoring the frivolous claims made by the plaintiffs.”

The Fourth Circuit appeal is the latest stage of the long-running proceedings in RTAO v. FEC.   Originally, RTAO challenged a number of FEC rules, including the rule implementing the electioneering communications funding restriction that was adopted after the Supreme Court’s 2007 decision in Wisconsin Right to Life v. FEC (11 C.F.R. § 114.15).   The district court and Court of Appeals upheld all of the challenged rules in 2008 and 2009.  Subsequent judicial decisions, most notably Citizens United v. FEC, mooted the much of the case, however.  In April 2010, the Supreme Court vacated the 2009 Court of Appeals’ decision, and remanded the case for further consideration in light of Citizens United and “the Solicitor General’s suggestion of mootness.”  Upon remand, the district court again considered and rejected the two remaining claims relating to the “subpart (b)” definition of “expressly advocating” and the FEC’s “major purpose” methodology in June 2011.  The current Fourth Circuit proceedings are the appeal of this decision.

On October 18, 2010, the Legal Center, along with Democracy 21, filed an amici brief with the district court supporting the challenged regulation and policy.  Prior to the remand, the two organizations filed two other amici briefs in the case dating back to 2008.

The Campaign Legal Center took the lead in preparing the brief.

To read the brief filed today, click here.

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