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.

Moreover, there is no constitutionally legitimate basis to require any reporting and disclosure for any communication merely because it mentions the name of a candidate for federal office. To label such communications as anything more than issue advocacy is to apply a misnomer. Additionally, to justify such disclosure requirements as furthering the interest of the government in a better informed public camouflages the real purpose — to protect incumbent office holders at the expense of their challengers. Forced disclosure is anathema to this nation’s founding commitment to a self-governing people’s marketplace of ideas free from licensure and censorship by the government.

Our amicus brief was filed on behalf of:
Free Speech Coalition, Inc. (www.freespeechcoalition.org)
The Free Speech Defense and Education Fund, Inc.
U.S. Justice Foundation (http://usjf.net/)
Institute on the Constitution (http://www.theamericanview.com/)
American Civil Rights Union (http://www.theacru.org/)
Citizens United (http://www.citizensunited.org/)
Conservative Legal Defense and Education Fund (www.cldef.org)
Downsize DC Foundation (http://www.downsizedcfoundation.org/)
DownsizeDC.org (http://www.downsizedc.org/)
Gun Owners of America, Inc. (www.gunowners.org)
Gun Owners Foundation (http://www.gunowners.com/)
Let Freedom Ring USA (http://www.letfreedomringusa.com/)
The National Right to Work Committee (http://www.nrtwc.org/)
Public Advocate of the U.S. (http://www.publicadvocateusa.org/)
U.S. Border Control (http://www.usbc.org/)
The U.S. Constitutional Rights Legal Defense Fund, Inc.
Base Connect, Inc. (http://www.base-connect.com/)

Link to brief