Lawsuit Filed Today Is Fundamental Challenge To Election Laws
New and Existing Campaign Finance Laws Violate Freedom Of The Press
(Washington, D.C.) — A new lawsuit, charging that both the new Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (BCRA) and the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 (FECA) violate the First Amendment protection of Freedom of the Press, was filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. today. Other lawsuits filed after President Bush signed the BCRA in March have challenged the new law on grounds that it violates the First Amendment right to free speech, freedom of association, due process of law, equal protection, and principles of federalism. But today’s suit is the first to claim that BCRA violates Freedom of the Press, which the complaint says “belongs to the American people,” and not just to the institutional corporate press, such as The Washington Post or New York Times.
Eight plaintiffs filed a lawsuit today, including U.S. Representative Ron Paul (R-TX), Gun Owners of America, Inc., Gun Owners of America Political Victory Fund, RealCampaignReform.org, Citizens United, Citizens United Political Victory Fund, and two Libertarian Party candidates for public office in Massachusetts, Michael Cloud (running for U.S. Senate) and Carla Howell (running for Governor).
Representing the plaintiffs is William J. Olson and Herb Titus, of William J. Olson, PC. The U.S. Justice Foundation is supporting the lawsuit.
The lawsuit charges that Congress has conferred upon the Federal Election Commission licensing power over, and editorial control of, campaigns for election to federal office. Freedom of the Press forbids both. Freedom of the Press, the complaint claims, requires that the government place no prior restraints upon candidates and their supporters, who cannot constitutionally be required to register with the government before engaging in an election campaign, or be forced to disclose the names, addresses and occupations of their supporters. Nor, the complaint continues, can Congress constitutionally empower the Federal Election Commission to determine what may be communicated to the people in an election campaign, and by whom, forcing some, but not other, communications to meet stiff disclosure requirements and discriminatory economic burdens.
The lawsuit specifically points out that “The FECA/BCRA abridges the freedom of the press by exercising licensing and editorial control of any person who produces and airs any ‘electioneering communication,'” during the critical final days of a campaign, but does so in a way that provides “a special privilege exempting” the institutional corporate press and “sponsors of debates and forums approved by the FEC.” In short, Congress has discriminated against political parties, political committees, and individuals denying to them the same Freedom of the Press enjoyed by radio and television and, especially, the print media.
Jim Babka of RealCampaignReform.org, the organizing plaintiff in the lawsuit declared, “This lawsuit has two very important goals. First, attack vigorously a law that empowers the government to shield elected officials from ‘robust and open’ debate — guaranteed by the Freedom of the Press. Second, to vindicate the principle that Freedom of the Press is a right enjoyed by all Americans, not just a handful of establishment ‘news media’ corporations.”
The lawsuit is the sixth to challenge the constitutionality of the recently enacted campaign reform law, and the special 3-judge court is considering whether the cases will be consolidated. A court status and scheduling conference will be held later today in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, at which procedural matters in certain of the previously filed cases will be considered.
A copy of the complaint is available at http://www.RealCampaignReform.org.