Election Law @ Moritz

Election Law Litigation

Wisconsin Right to Life v. Federal Election Commission

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(page last updated October 30, 2007 at 1:38 PM)

Case Information

All Courts: U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Case 1:04-cv-1260-RJL-RWR); U.S. Supreme Court (Case 04-1581)
Topic(s): Campaign Finance
State: Washington, D.C.
Date Filed: July 26, 2004
Date Ended: January 23, 2006

Summary

Plaintiff, Wisconsin Right to Life, challenges the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (BCRA) as applied to its advertisements. The advertisements at issue urged listeners to contact Senators Kohl and Feingold and encourage each to vote against anticipated filibusters of federal judicial nominees. The BCRA prohibits the use of corporate funds to pay for electioneering communications, defined as broadcast, cable or satellite communication that refers to a clearly identified federal candidate. Here, Senator Feingold was up for re-election when the advertisements were broadcast; thus raising the issue of whether these were in fact electioneering communications.

Plaintiff claims that their advertisements were not electioneering communications for four reasons, including: (1) they concerned only a legislative matter; (2) they made no reference to a political party, the candidacy of the Senator or the suitability of the Senator for re-election; (3) they were broadcast before the prohibition period as well as during the prohibition period; and (4) they refer to both a candidate and non-candidate, treating them equally. The United States District Court denied an injunction and later dismissed the matter with prejudice holding that McConnell v FEC, 124 S. Ct. 619 (2003), which upheld the constitutionality of the BCRA, precluded any future individual challenges to the BCRA. The Court of Appeals dismissed the appeal of the denial of the injunction, noting that the Supreme Court has exclusive authority to hear such appeals. Upon Plaintiff's request, the Supreme Court noted jurisdiction.

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