Independence Institute v. Federal Election Commission

Michael Harless Constitutional Law, Election Law, U. S. Supreme Court

Today we filed an amicus brief urging the U.S. Supreme Court to review an appeal filed by the Independent Institute challenging the disclosure requirements imposed by the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (“BCRA”) as applied to genuine issue ads.  BCRA compels the disclosure of donors to such ads over $1,000, with substantial civil and criminal penalties for failure to report this information publicly. Read More

FEC Conciliation Agreement Modified

Michael Harless Election Law

We were pleased to have persuaded the FEC to act unanimously to modify a Conciliation Agreement entered into in 2005.  The reason was that the state of election law had changed, based on recent court rulings, which then were followed by changes in Commission regulations.

This may be only the second or third time such a modification has been approved by the FEC.  We believe that the last time it occurred was the modification of a conciliation agreement executed in 1995 with the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. Read More

Independence Institute v. Federal Election Commission

Michael Harless Election Law, U. S. District Court, District of Columbia

Today, our firm filed an amicus brief in support of The Independence Institute, in its challenge to certain federal election law and Federal Election Commission regulations governing electioneering communications.  Under these regulations, Section 501(c)(3) organizations must report on their broadcast issue ads which mention the name of incumbent Congressmen.  The required reports include certain information on donors to the nonprofit organizations.  Our brief explains why these laws and regulations violate First Amendment principles of anonymity long recognized by the U.S. Supreme Court. Read More

Independence Institute v. FEC — Amicus Brief

Michael Harless Administrative Law, Constitutional Law, Election Law, U. S. Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit

Today we filed an amicus brief in support of the Independence Institute in their challenge to the Federal Election Commission’s regulations requiring the names and addresses of donors to nonprofits doing issue ads, which technically meet the criteria of Independent Expenditures, to be disclosed. Our brief explains the motivation of Congress for wanting this information.

Link to brief

Jeremiah Morgan Testifies Before the Federal Election Commission

Michael Harless Administrative Law, Appearances, Election Law

Today, on behalf of the Free Speech Coalition, Inc., the Free Speech Defense and Education Fund, Inc., and U.S. Justice Foundation Jeremiah Morgan of our firm testified before the Federal Election Commission at its Hearings on the McCutcheon v. FEC Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. (His testimony appears at 5:19:51 of the video.)

Link to video

Comments filed opposing FEC rulemaking after McCutcheon Decision

Michael Harless Administrative Law, Election Law

Today we filed comments in response to the Federal Election Commission notice in considering a petition for rulemaking. This petition asks the FEC to expand the definition of “federal office” to include a delegate to a constitutional convention for proposing amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

We explained that the FEC has no authority to expand the definition of “federal office” — as this term is clearly defined in statute. Moreover, we explain that the manner by which delegates would be selected to serve at a so-called “Convention of the States” under Article V would be governed by state, not federal law. Read More

John Albert Dummett, Jr. & Edward C. Noonan v. Alejandro Padilla — Petition for Certiorari

Michael Harless Constitutional Law, Election Law, U. S. Supreme Court

Today our firm filed a Petition for Writ of Certiorari seeking U.S. Supreme Court Review of two decisions of the California Courts which held that the California Secretary of State had no duty to determine whether a candidate for President of the United States is eligible to serve, if elected, before placing his name on the official state election ballot.

Our Petition explains that Article II, Section 1 of the U.S. Constitution vests in state legislatures the responsibility to determine how electors are selected and who is eligible to serve as president. In the early days of our Republic, as permitted by the U.S. Constitution, state legislatures in several states simply chose the electors directly without any popular vote. Now that electors are selected in every state by popular vote, state legislatures have the duty to ensure that voters are given a choice only between persons eligible to serve. Read More

Comments filed with the FEC on Definition of “Federal Office”

Michael Harless Administrative Law, Election Law

Today we filed comments in response to the Federal Election Commission notice in considering a petition for rulemaking. This petition asks the FEC to expand the definition of “federal office” to include a delegate to a constitutional convention for proposing amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

We explained that the FEC has no authority to expand the definition of “federal office” — as this term is clearly defined in statute. Moreover, we explain that the manner by which delegates would be selected to serve at a so-called “Convention of the States” under Article V would be governed by state, not federal law. Read More

Ohio Election Commission v. Susan B. Anthony List — Amicus Brief Filed Opposing Ohio’s “Ministry of Truth”

Michael Harless Election Law, Nonprofit Law, U. S. Supreme Court

Taking a page out of Orwell’s novel 1984, the Ohio Elections Commission operates as a modern “Ministry of Truth’ — with the power to “determine” and “proclaim” the truth or falsity of every statement made during an Ohio political campaign. Our firm filed an amicus curiae brief in the U.S. Supreme Court, contending that the government has no legitimate role whatsoever to play in guiding Americans as to how to vote. Read More

FEC Issues Advisory Opinion Sought by Citizens for Joseph Miller

Michael Harless Administrative Law, Election Law

Representing Alaska Senate candidate Joseph Miller’s campaign committee, Bill Olson appeared before the Federal Election Commission today to answer questions about the facts underlying Advisory Opinion Request No. 13-11 filed by the firm on the campaign’s behalf. After a lengthy discussion, the FEC approved the Advisory Opinion on a 5-1 vote. The Commission ruled that the Committee’s use of campaign funds with respect to an appeal of a judgment to the Alaska Supreme Court relating to his 2010 campaign for the U.S. Senate was fully permissible, and not a personal use. Read More

Shaun McCutcheon v. FEC Amicus Brief for Downsize DC Foundation, et al. in the United States Supreme Court

Michael Harless Constitutional Law, Election Law, U. S. Supreme Court

Incumbent Congressmen must not be allowed to make it extremely difficult to challenge them for re-election, as they have done since 1971 by use of campaign finance laws.

Today we filed an amicus brief on behalf of Downsize DC Foundation, DownsizeDC.org, Free Speech Coalition, Inc., Free Speech Defense and Education Fund, U.S. Justice Foundation, Gun Owners Foundation, Gun Owners of America, Inc., English First, English First Foundation, Lincoln Institute for Research and Education, Abraham Lincoln Foundation, Institute on the Constitution, Western Center for Journalism, Policy Analysis Center, Conservative Legal Defense and Education Fund, Libertarian National Committee, Inc. and Constitution Party National Committee in Support of Appellants. Read More

Shelby County, Alabama v. Eric H. Holder, Jr., et al., Amicus Brief for Abraham Lincoln Foundation for Public Policy Research, Inc., et al. in the United States Supreme Court

Michael Harless Constitutional Law, Election Law, U. S. Supreme Court

Today our firm filed an amicus brief in the case of Shelby County, Alabamav. Eric H. Holder, Jr., et al. in the United States Supreme Court in support of petitioner.

Our amicus brief argues that Section 5 of The Voting Rights Act (“VRA”) of 1965, as amended in 2006, exceeds the powers vested in Congress by either the Fourteenth or Fifteenth Amendment. Further, Sections 4(b) and 5 of the VRA of 1965, as amended in 2006, put Alabama on an unequal footing, in violation of the statute admitting Alabama to the union, and the Tenth Amendment. Read More

William P. Danielczyk, Jr., et al. v. United States, Amicus Brief for Citizens United, et al. in the United States Supreme Court

Michael Harless Constitutional Law, Election Law, U. S. Supreme Court

Today our firm filed an amicus brief in the case of William P. Danielczyk, Jr. and Eugene R. Biagi v. United States in the United States Supreme Court in support of petitioner’s petition for writ of certiorari.

Our brief argues that the petition should be granted because the court below failed to apply the categorical First Amendment right of corporate entities to engage in political speech established by the U.S. Constitution and reaffirmed in Citizens United v. FEC. Further, the questions presented should be extended to include whether campaign finance restrictions on speech and press should ever be permitted based on overriding governmental interests. Finally, our brief argues that the various standards of review which enable the government to override the speech and press guarantees of the First Amendment, are illegitimate encroachments upon the sovereign power of the people to constitute and, when necessary reconstitute their government. Our brief urges the Supreme Court that “it is time to cut completely the Gordian Knot by which constitutional rights have been sacrificed based on atextual judicial balancing tests.” Read More

Center for Individual Freedom, et al. v. Chris Van Hollen, et al. Amicus Brief for Free Speech Coalition, Inc., et al. in the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit

Michael Harless Administrative Law, Constitutional Law, Election Law, U. S. Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit

Today our firm filed an amicus brief in the case of Center for Individual Freedom, et al. v. Chris Van Hollen, et al. in the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in support of appellants and reversal.

Our brief argues that the BCRA section 201 provision requiring disclosure of the names and addresses of all contributors who contributed an aggregate of $1,000 or more is subject to the rule of statutory construction to avoid serious constitutional problems. The Supreme Court did not address or resolve in Citizens United the constitutionality of whether the disclosure requirement applied to any donor who gave money generally to the publisher of an electioneering communication without direction as to how the funds should be used. Forced disclosures are subject to “exacting scrutiny” requiring proof of a strong governmental interest in the prevention of corruption or the appearance of corruption. The government interest in a better informed public, standing by itself, is not sufficient to override the well-established anonymity principle undergirding the freedoms of speech and the press. To avoid compromising that principle, BCRA’s disclosure provision should be construed to require proof that the “contributor who contributed” did so with the specific purpose of supporting an electioneering communication. Read More

Challenge to Oklahoma GOP Convention in Norman

Michael Harless Election Law

Today, we submitted a challenge to the Oklahoma Republican Party’s election of delegates and alternates to the Republican National Convention in violation of party rules.

We are representing four individuals, each of whom represents the interests of large groups of other Oklahoma Republicans:
Steve Dickson, as a duly-credentialed delegate to the Oklahoma State Republican Convention held in Norman on May 12, 2012;
Lukus Collins, as a duly-credentialed delegate from Oklahoma’s 5th Congressional District to the Republican National Convention to be held in Tampa,August 27-30, 2012;
Jerry Essary, Jr., as Chairman of the Beckham County Republican Party; and
Jake Peters, as one of the at-large delegates and alternates to the Republican National Convention elected in Norman. Read More

Arizona Free Enterprise Club’s Freedom Club PAC, et al. v. Ken Bennett, Amicus Brief for Gun Owners of America, et al. in the U.S. Supreme Court

Michael Harless Election Law, U. S. Supreme Court

Today our firm filed an amicus brief in the case of Arizona Free Enterprise Club’s Freedom Club PAC, et al. v. Ken Bennett in the United States Supreme Court in support of petitioners.

Our brief argues that the Arizona system of public financing of campaigns for election to public office, the Arizona Citizens Clean Election Act, is unconstitutional to its core. Contrary to the analysis of the lower court, the public financing system approved in Buckley v. Valeo does not govern this case as Buckley permits only voluntarily-funded public financing of elections, while a ten percent surcharge on civil penalties and criminal fines unconstitutionally funds the Arizona public financing system. Further, the Arizona act unconstitutionally abridges petitioners’ privileges and immunities in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. Our brief further argues that the Buckley rationale for public financing of election campaigns is fundamentally flawed and that the Arizona public financing scheme is antithetical to First Amendment principles. Read More

Free Speech Coalition Analysis of the DISCLOSE Act (S. 3295)

Michael Harless Election Law

Our firm prepared this Analysis of the DISCLOSE Act (S. 3295) on behalf of the Free Speech Coalition to explain the following sections of the DISCLOSE Act that are likely to be of primary concern by member organizations:
Section 103. Treatment of payments for coordinated communications as contributions.
Section 201. Independent expenditures.
Section 202. Electioneering communications.
Section 211. Additional information required to be included in reports on disbursements by covered organizations.
Section 212. Rules regarding use of general treasury funds.
Section 213. Optional use of separate account by covered organizations for campaignrelated activity.
Section 214. Modification of rules relating to disclaimer statements required for certain communications.
Section 301. Requiring disclosure by covered organizations of information on campaign-related activity. Read More

Committee to Recall Robert Menendez v. Wells Amicus Brief on Behalf of 12 Organizations

Michael Harless Constitutional Law, Election Law, New Jersey Supreme Court

On May 10, 2010, on behalf of 12 organizations, the firm filed an Amicus Brief in the Supreme Court of New Jersey supporting the efforts of the plaintiff, the Committee to Recall Robert Menendez From the Office of U.S. Senator.

On November 2, 1993, by an overwhelming majority, the people of New Jersey enacted an amendment to the New Jersey Constitution which allows the people to recall their representatives to the U.S. Congress, and directing the state legislature to promulgate laws to provide for recall elections, which the legislature did in May, 1995. Read More

Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission Amicus Brief in Support of Appellant U.S. Supreme Court

Michael Harless Constitutional Law, Election Law, U. S. Supreme Court

Today, our firm filed an amicus curiae brief in the U.S. Supreme Court in support of appellant Citizens United on a supplemental question. The amicus brief urges that Citizens United’s challenge to federal regulation of electioneering communications be sustained, and the decisions in Austin v. Michigan State Chamber of Commerce andMcConnell v. FEC, as applied to BCRA section 203, be overruled since they endorse an erroneous view of the freedom of speech that conflicts with Citizens United’s freedom of the press. Contrary to the assumptions in Austin and McConnell, the freedom of the press does not confer a special privilege upon the institutional press, but is enjoyed by all the people. Austin’s and McConnell’s narrow reading of the press freedom is not only contrary to history, but at odds with new realities of journalism. Read More

Free Speech Coalition, Inc. and Free Speech Defense and Education Fund, Inc. Comments on the FEC’s Proposed Regulations on Electioneering Communications (72 Fr 50261)

Michael Harless Administrative Law, Election Law

Today, we filed comments with the Federal Election Commission (“FEC”) on behalf of Free Speech Coalition and Free Speech Defense and Education Fund (“FSC/FSDEF”) regarding the FEC’s proposed rulemaking in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 25, 2007 decision in FEC v. Wisconsin Right to Life (WRTL II).  That decision upheld WRTL’s unrestricted right to publish issue ads during pre‑election periods, so long as it did not engage in “express advocacy or its functional equivalent.” Read More

Wisconsin Right to Life — Amicus Brief

Michael Harless Constitutional Law, Election Law, U. S. Supreme Court

Today we filed a Brief Amicus Curiae in the U.S. Supreme Court in the Wisconsin Right to Life case.  The brief asks the Court to reconsider its prior holdings in the McConnell and Buckley cases, and to strike down the Congressional ban on “electioneering communications.”  (We had previously filed an amicus brief in support of Wisconsin Right to Life when the case came before the Court last year.) Read More