Tuesday, January 13, 2015

US Supreme Court OK with legal barriers to campaign coordination

Rick Hasen's indispensable Election Law blog is reporting here that the US Supreme Court is letting stand some legal limitations that discourage some candidate committee/outside group coordination. Writes Hasen: 

“High Court Won’t Eye Challenges To Federal, State PAC Regulations” 
Posted on  by Bloomberg BNA
The Supreme Court has let stand federal and state rules for political action committees, which faced new challenges in the wake of recent court decisions that rolled back other campaign finance regulations. 
The move made it less likely the high court will make major changes in campaign finance law in the near future.
Now I'm not a lawyer, but I assume this is not good news for those who want to overturn Wisconsin law that bans some candidate/outside group coordination - - the law at the heart of the now-suspended John Doe II probe (timeline).

Hasen quoted this section from the Appellate Court ruling which the Supreme Court let stand:
There is little guidance from other courts on examining coordination of expenditures, but we conclude that, at a minimum, there must be some organizational separation to lessen the risks of coordinated expenditures. Separate bank accounts and organizational documents do not ensure that “information [] will only be used for independent expenditures.” Catholic Leadership Coal. of Tex. v. Reisman, No. A‐12‐CA‐566‐SS, 2013 WL 2404066, at *177 (W.D. Tex. May 30, 2013) (emphasis added) (“The informational wall [that plaintiff] asserts it can raise to keep its independent expenditure activities entirely separate from its direct campaign contribution activities is thin at best. This triggers the precise dangers of corruption, and the appearance of corruption, which motivated the Court in Buckley to uphold the challenged contribution limits.”). As discussed below, whether a group is functionally distinct from a non‐independent‐expenditure‐only entity may depend on factors such as the overlap of staff and resources, the lack of financial independence, the coordination of activities, and the flow of information between the entities. 

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