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"Speech Now", Free and Clear
April 1, 2010 Content provided by DDC Advocacy
If the Supreme Court didn't make it clear enough in its January ruling in Federal Election Commission v. Citizens United that certain speech regulations enacted by the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law are unconstitutional, the federal Circuit Court of the District of Columbia just underlined the majority opinion and added an exclamation point. The Citizens United case restored to all entities the same unencumbered free speech rights that corporations owning media outlets have exclusively enjoyed since the new campaign law was adopted in 2003. Last Friday, an en banc ruling of the DC Circuit Court made clear that the FEC General Counsel's argument claiming that the CU ruling only applied to individual entities and not to those who may choose to voluntarily pool their resources as having no legal basis. In other words, the FEC's top lawyer contended that engaging in free speech activity is now legal for an individual entity, but illegal if that same subject decides to freely associate with other like minded individuals, groups, or entities. The panel, including both liberal and conservative judges, voted 9-0 to reject the FEC's rather inconsistent conclusion and in favor of the organization Speech Now, which the federal agency challenged prior to the Supreme Court rendering the CU decision. The two actions mean that individual, labor union, and corporate activity, acting in unison or alone, and advocating the direct election or defeat of a candidate cannot be regulated so long as the expenditures are independent, uncoordinated, and disclosed.