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Election Law & Campaign Finance


“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
– First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

Most election law cases involve the First Amendment, as many of these laws are enacted at the expense of the freedoms guaranteed to all by the First Amendment, and particularly the Freedom of the Press.

CLDEF believes that most federal and state election laws and campaign finance laws are not about good government. Rather, they are designed by incumbents to protect the central interest of incumbents — which is to get reelected.

Incumbents would never think to pass an election-related law without knowing for certain whether it would benefit them, or make them more or less vulnerable to a challenger. Therefore, courts should give no deference whatsoever to laws passed by Congress or state legislatures. In fact, all such laws should be viewed with suspicion.

For many years, CLDEF has been involved in testifying before the Federal Election Commission, and opposing efforts to limit the freedom of Americans to criticize and oppose incumbent legislators.

Below are some of the Election Law and Campaign Finance matters in which CLDEF has been involved.

Steven Fish v. Kris Kobach

admin Election Law and Campaign Finance, Immigration Law

Today an amicus brief was filed, on our behalf, in the Tenth Circuit in support of the right of Kansas to require that persons registering to vote under the National Voter Registration Act of 1994 submit documentary proof of citizenship. The brief supported the position taken by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach.

Independence Institute v. Federal Election Commission

admin Election Law and Campaign Finance

Today, an amicus brief was filed, on behalf of CLDEF, 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.  The brief explains why these laws and regulations violate First Amendment principles of anonymity long recognized by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Independence Institute v. Federal Election Commission
U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit
(opposing disclosure of donors for pure issue ads mentioning a candidate)

admin Election Law and Campaign Finance

CLDEF filed an amicus curiae brief in support of the Independence Institute in its challenge to the Federal Election Commission’s regulations requiring the public disclosure of the names and addresses of donors to nonprofits sponsoring pure issue ads. If an issue ad mentions the name of a candidate during specified periods and to a targeted audience, then it technically meets the criteria defining “Independent Expenditures,” and donors must be disclosed to the FEC – and the public. CLDEF’s brief explains the corrupt motivation of Congress in wanting this information to be made public. Read More

Shelby County v. Eric H. Holder, Jr.
U.S. Supreme Court
(Fourteenth Amendment)
(challenging the preclearance requirement of the Voting Rights Act)

admin Election Law and Campaign Finance

CLDEF’s amicus curiae brief argued 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, including the enforcement provisions of those amendments.  Under the 2006 amendments, the purpose of the preclearance is to “protect the ability of [minority] citizens to elect their preferred candidate of choice” and is no longer concerned with preventing voting law changes that mask racial discrimination denying or abridging the right to vote.  Further, Sections 4(b) and 5 of the VRA as amended in 2006 put Alabama on an unequal footing, in violation of the statute admitting Alabama to the union and the Tenth Amendment.  The Supreme Court held that Section 4’s coverage formula is unconstitutional in light of current conditions and can no longer be used as a basis for the preclearance requirement. Read More

Committee to Recall Robert Menendez v. Wells, Amicus Brief

admin Election Law and Campaign Finance

On May 10, 2010 an amicus brief was filed on behalf of CLDEF in the case of Committee to Recall Robert Menendez from the Office of U.S. Senator v. Nina Mitchell Wells 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