CLC Update March 16, 2009
- Files Amici Brief in EMILY's List Appeal
- BCRA Sponsors File Brief in RNC's Challenge to "Soft Money" Ban
- CLC Executive Director Issues Statement on SCOTUS Redistricting Decision
- Legal Center Sends Senate Judiciary Committee Analysis of the Public Corruption Bill
- CLC Submits Letter for the Record to Senate Rules Committee
- CLC Executive Director Testifies Before Texas Senate on Photo ID bill
Files Amici Brief in Emily's List Appeal
On March 12, the Campaign Legal Center, with Democracy 21, filed an amici brief with the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals to defend key FEC regulations that aim to prevent federal political committees from spending "soft money" ( i.e. , funds not in compliance with federal contribution restrictions) to influence federal elections.
The case, EMILY's List v. FEC, challenges the constitutionality of two regulations adopted by the FEC in 2004. The "allocation" regulation governs how much federal hard money a federal political committee must use to fund its "mixed" or "generic" political activities that affect both federal and non-federal elections, such as voter mobilization efforts. The FEC's "solicitation" regulation provides that a "contribution" includes funds raised in response to solicitations that indicate that the money will be used "to support or oppose" the election of federal candidates. These regulations were upheld by U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in their entirety on July 31, 2008, and the plaintiff EMILY's List appealed.
The amici brief argues that the regulations are consistent with the First Amendment, represent a reasonable exercise of the FEC's statutory authority, and are not arbitrary and capricious. Amici also emphasize that the rules serve the important governmental goals of preventing the circumvention of the federal contribution limits and shutting down the soft money abuses that developed after the passage of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA).
BCRA Sponsors File Brief in RNC'S Challenge to "Soft Money" Ban
On March 9, 2009, the Legal Center filed an amici curiae brief on behalf of the original cosponsors of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (BCRA), Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Russ Feingold (D-WI) and former Representatives Christopher Shays (R-CT) and Marty Meehan (D-MA) in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in RNC v. FEC, the latest challenge to the law's "soft money" restrictions.
The RNC, together with the California Republican Party and Republican Party of San Diego County, filed suit just days after last November's election, to challenge BCRA's "soft money" provisions. BCRA bars the national parties from raising or spending soft money (i.e. money not in compliance with federal contribution limits and source restrictions) and also prohibits state parties from using soft money to pay for federal election activities such as voter registration or GOTV drives in connection with elections with federal candidates on the ballot.
A previous attempt by the Republican National Committee and the California Republican Party to overturn BCRA's soft money restrictions was rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court in McConnell v. FEC in 2003. In the brief filed this week, former Representatives Shays Meehan and Senators McCain and Feingold, represented by the CLC, urged the court to reject the plaintiffs' challenge, stressing that the alleged "constitutional standard" cited by the plaintiffs' attorneys is in fact created out whole cloth and that the Supreme Court upheld the soft money provisions of BCRA in their entirety in McConnell.
CLC Executive Director Issues Statement on SCOTUS Redistricting Decision
On March 9, 2009, the Supreme Court decided Bartlett v. Strickland, a redistricting case from North Carolina. The issue in the case was whether a racial minority group that constitutes less than 50% of a proposed district's citizen voting age population can state a vote-dilution claim under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1973. The Court, by a 5-4 margin, held that it could not. The Legal Center filed a brief as amicus curiae in the case, urging the Court to uphold the district.
In a statement following the decision, CLC's Executive Director J. Gerald Hebert called the decision disappointing, and predicted it would likely lead to more "packing" of minority opportunity districts at levels higher than necessary for minority voters to elect candidates of their choice.
Legal Center Sends Senate Judiciary Committee Analysis Of The Public Corruption Bill
On March 2, 2009, the Campaign Legal Center sent a legal analysis of S. 49, the Public Corruption Prosecution Improvements Act, to members of the Senate Judiciary committee. The analysis concluded that the bill would close loopholes and strengthen the federal public corruption laws and provide federal prosecutors with additional resources to combat official misconduct.
The Legal Center highlighted in particular that the legislation offers crucial amendments to the federal illegal gratuities statute to correct an overly narrow interpretation given this statute by two recent federal court decisions. The Legal Center stressed that the illegal gratuities statute will only deter influence peddling and prevent the abuse of office if it prohibits all gifts given to a public official for or because of the official's position.
CLC Submits Letter for the Record to Senate Rules Committee
On March 11, 2009 the Senate Committee on Rules & Administration held a hearing on problems associated with voter registration during the 2008 election cycle. At the request of the committee, Executive Director, J. Gerald Hebert, submitted a letter for the record describing the obstacles to voter registration placed in the way of students at the historically black Prairie View A&M University in Texas in violation of the Voting Rights Act.
Prairie View students felt that their voter registration applications were rejected due to racial discrimination on the part of Waller County election officials. The Campaign Legal Center, representing a number of Prairie View students, coordinated efforts with Department of Justice (DOJ) officials to take action against Waller County. The DOJ complaint filed in federal court against Waller County alleged that officials there engaged in unlawful actions against student voters at Prairie View. A consent judgment was reached which provided far ranging relief for African-American students at the university.
CLC Executive Director Testifies Before Texas Senate on Photo ID Bill
On March 10-11, 2009, Campaign Legal Center Executive Director, J. Gerald Hebert, testified before the Texas Senate as an invited witness to give testimony on a proposed photo ID bill. The hearing lasted nearly 24 hours and went through the night of March 10.
Hebert noted that proponents of the ID bill claimed it was needed to prevent against voter impersonation at the polls. Hebert noted that there had never been a prosecution of in person fraud in Texas, and that in any event, current Texas law, which provides for up to ten years in prison and a $10,000 fine for anyone caught impersonating a voter, made it unlikely anyone would take the risk of committing voter impersonation. The likely real intent of the bill, Hebert observed, was to suppress minority voting strength, and he noted that the Legislature could not even identify which Texas voters currently lacked a photo ID. Because Texas will be required to obtain Section 5 preclearance of the bill, Hebert testified, the State will have to produce such information in order to make the photo ID bill legally enforceable. The fate of the photo ID bill is up in the air as the Texas House, which is closely divided along partisan lines, does not appear to have the same enthusiasm for enacting the measure as the majority in the Texas Senate possessed.