CLC Update March 30, 2009

CLC Staff
Mar 30, 2009
  1. Files Amici Brief in Supreme Court Voting Rights Act Case
  2. CLC and CREW Urge DOJ to Investigate Contributions by U.S. Chamber of Commerce
  3. CLC Sends Senate an Analysis of the Campaign Disclosure Parity Act
  4. Legal Center Staff Addresses Washington Intern Group


Files Amici Brief in Supreme Court Voting Rights Act Case

On March 25, 2009, the Campaign Legal Center filed an amici brief on behalf of former Republican officeholders with the United States Supreme Court in Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District Number One v. Holder. Amici curiae include William S. Cohen, former Secretary of Defense and Member of the U.S. Congress; Robert "Bob" Dole, former Senate Majority Leader and 1996 Republican Presidential nominee; former U.S. Representative Amory "Amo" Houghton, Jr.; Richard Lewis "Dick" Thornburgh, former Governor of Pennsylvania and U.S. Attorney General; and former Governor of Massachusetts, William F. Weld.

The case challenges the constitutionality of 2006 reauthorization of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. This section requires certain covered states and localities, predominantly in the South, to obtain Justice Department approval, or "preclearance," before changing any election practice or procedure, such as moving polling locations or altering voting districts.

The amici brief filed makes two principal points. First, amici highlight the bipartisan nature of the support for the 2006 reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act, and for all reauthorizations of the Act in the past. Second, the brief argues that the reason behind the bipartisan support for the 2006 reauthorization - as well as for past reauthorizations - was the extensive legislative record compiled by Congress that demonstrated both the efficacy of the Act and the remaining discrimination in voting that necessitated its renewal.

In addition, the Legal Center's Executive Director J. Gerald Hebert, who maintains a solo practice in Alexandria, Virginia, also filed an amici brief on behalf of seven Virginia jurisdictions that have "bailed out" of the preclearance provisions of the Voting Rights Act. Mr. Hebert filed that brief in his private capacity as a solo practitioner. The amici brief on behalf of the "Bailed Out Jurisdictions" argues that the bailout process works well, is financially feasible, and that the bailout process is neither cumbersome nor complicated. The "Bailed Out Jurisdictions" filing the brief include Voting Registrars in the Virginia counties of Amherst, Bottetourt, Essex, Middlesex, Page, and Washington counties and the City of Salem.


CLC and CREW Urge DOJ to Investigate Contributions By U.S. Chamber Of Commerce

On March 16, 2009, the Legal Center and Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) wrote a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder urging him to open a Department of Justice (DOJ) investigation into allegations that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce made $3 million in illegal corporate contributions to a 527 during the 2004 presidential election.

The letter outlined the original complaint filed in 2004 with the FEC against the Chamber for the contributions to the November Fund, which ended when a deadlocked FEC could not accept a negotiated settlement related to the violations. By the time the FEC dismissed the complaint after more than four years, the statute of limitations prevented recourse to the courts. The Justice Department during the Bush Administration declined to investigate the allegations after the FEC took no action.

In a press release announcing the letter, Legal Center Executive Director J. Gerald Hebert called on the Obama Administration to live up to its promise to restore the integrity of DOJ: "The Bush Justice Department chose to turn a blind eye toward millions of dollars in illegal political contributions by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Obama Justice Department having promised change must do better."


CLC Sends Senate an Analysis Of The Campaign Disclosure Parity Act

On March 19, the Campaign Legal Center sent a legal analysis of S. 482, the Senate Campaign Disclosure Parity Act to all members of the United States Senate. The bill, introduced by Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI), would require campaign finance reports for senators and Senate candidates to be filed electronically as are reports for all other federal candidates, party committees and federal PACs. The analysis also included a review of an unrelated amendment expected to be offered to S. 482 that has previously served as a "poison pill" and helped to scuttle earlier efforts to enact electronic disclosure for Senators.

Currently, Senate campaign finance reports are submitted only in paper form, which costs taxpayers over $250,000 annually since the information must be scanned and uploaded by hand into a database for public viewing. This practice results in a delay of disclosure and increases the likelihood of error. The analysis concluded that the changes proposed in S. 482 would resolve the problems that result from the currently inefficient and inaccurate Senate disclosure process.


Legal Center Staff Addresses Washington Intern Group

Staff from the Campaign Legal Center addressed students of the Washington Internship Institute on Wednesday, March 25th. Executive Director, J. Gerald Hebert, Associate Legal Counsel, Tara Malloy, and Media Director, David Vance, outlined the history of campaign finance in the United States and discussed current legal challenges to existing campaign finance laws as well as regulatory and legislative hurdles for ongoing attempts to enforce and modify the laws.

The staff also discussed its work related to redistricting reform, voting rights, and media policy issues.

The Washington Internship Institute is an educational non-profit that places undergraduate students and recent graduates into substantive internships throughout the Washington, DC area.

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