FEC set to examine implications of Supreme ruling


When the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Wisconsin Right to Life (WRtL), it put another major dent in the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act often known as McCain-Feingold. Not that the ruling necessarily cleared matters up appreciably, however. The Federal Election Commission is going to devote two entire days to a public hearing on just what the ruling means in terms of the rules. The FEC opened the matter to public comment 8/23/07. The questions revolve around the court ruling, "which held that certain advertisements were entitled to an exemption from the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act’s (BCRA) restriction on the use of corporate or union funds for ‘electioneering communications.’ The Supreme Court held that the specific ads at issue in the case were not the ‘functional equivalent of express advocacy’ because they were ‘susceptible of a reasonable interpretation other than as an appeal to vote for or against a clearly identified Federal candidate.’" The FEC has set aside two days for this, 10/17-18/07.

RBR observation: You can make a strong case that the WRtL ad was hiding behind an issue to go after a federal candidate, which is why supporters of BCRA won in lower courts. The issue discussed in the ads, support for President Bush’s bench nominees, was not on the Congressional agenda at the time, so it could be argued that WRtL could afford to abide by BCRA pre-election blackout and bring the matter up over the airwaves when there was a nomination pending before Congress. Coming up with a regulatory framework that doesn’t head straight back to the courts figures to be a real challenge.

|FEC hearing schedule here|
Public Hearing on Electioneering Communications
Schedule of Witnesses
October 17 and 18, 2007
October 17, 2007
10:00 AM-10:15 AM: Opening Remarks
10:15 AM-12 noon: Panel 1
 * James Bopp, James Madison Center for Free Speech
 * Marc Elias, Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee
 * Allison Hayward
12 noon-1:30 PM: Lunch
1:30 PM-3:00 PM: Panel 2
 * Donald Simon, Democracy 21
 * Laurence Gold, American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations
 * Jan Baran, Chamber of Commerce of the United States of America
3:00 PM-3:15 PM: Break
3:15 PM-4:15 PM: Panel 3
 * Paul Ryan, Campaign Legal Center
 * Jessica Robinson, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees
October 18, 2007
10:00 a.m. – 11:30 AM: Panel 1
 * Robert Bauer, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee
 * Michael Trister, Alliance for Justice
 * Jeremiah Morgan, Free Speech Coalition
11:30 a.m. – 1:00 PM: Lunch
1:00 PM-3:00 PM: Panel 2
 * Stephen Hoersting, Center for Competitive Politics
 * John Sullivan, Service Employees International Union
 * Heidi Abegg, American Taxpayers Association
 * Michael Boos, Citizens United