08.31.2009 0

Too Hot Not To Note: Court Hands Victory to Outside Political Groups

  • On: 09/23/2009 09:33:25
  • In: First Amendment
  • ALG Editor’s Note: In the following featured commentary, President Bill Wilson had the following to say, “You can agree or disagree with Emily’s List on issues. And, while ALG takes no position on their issues, they do tend to support people we find anathema to Constitutional liberty. But ALG applauds Emily’s List for pushing this. All Americans who value free speech, the First Amendment and liberty owe them a big Thank You. So, Emily’s List – Thank You.”


    Court Hands Victory to Outside Political Groups

    Brody Mullins reports on money and politics.

    It just got easier for outside political groups to influence elections.

    In the latest blow to the government’s efforts to limit big money in elections, a federal appeals court today cited First Amendment rights in striking down rules that capped contributions to outside political groups and so-called 527 political organizations. The court also removed restrictions on how those campaign groups could spend money in elections.

    Today’s decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit makes it much easier for outside political groups such as EMILY’s List or the 2004 Swift Boat Veterans to raise large amounts of money and to air TV ads for or against candidates for Congress or the White House.

    The issue stems from the 2002 McCain-Feingold law that banned individuals, companies and unions from writing checks of $25,000, $100,000, $1 million or more to the Republican and Democratic parties. The goal of the law was to reduce the influence of wealthy contributors in politics.

    But in the 2004 presidential election, a number of independent political groups spouted up. Instead of the political parties, these new groups collected and spent big donations to influence the 2004 presidential campaign between former President George W. Bush and Sen. John Kerry (D., Mass.).

    The most famous of the 527s, named after the section of the IRS code they use to incorporate, was the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, bankrolled by a few wealthy individuals, that ran millions of dollars in television advertising that raised questions about Kerry’s Vietnam war record. Democrats countered by raising more than $100 million for an organization called America Coming Together that rallied support for Kerry and other Democrats.

    After the election, the Federal Election Commission tried to rein in the 527 groups. The FEC enacted rules that limited donations to 527s to $5,000 if the group said it was going to directly try to influence an election. The FEC also limited the spending by the political groups by ruling that much of their spending must come from donations of $5,000 or less.

    EMILY’s List, a major abortion-rights political group, challenged those rules in court soon after the 2004 election.

    The court sided with EMILY’s List, striking down the $5,000 limit on donations and removing some limits on campaign spending. The court said the First Amendment “safeguards the right of citizens to band together and pool their resources…to express their views about politics issues and candidates for public office. We agree with EMILY’s List that the new FEC regulations contravene those principles and violate the First Amendment.”

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