Arlington, Va.—In an order entered yesterday, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia entered a judgment declaring that SpeechNow.org, an independent group of citizens, may accept unlimited donations to support its efforts to protect the First Amendment at the ballot box. The court also explicitly enjoined the Federal Election Commission (FEC) from enforcing contribution limits against SpeechNow.org and its prospective donors. The order follows on the heels of the unanimous March 26, 2010 decision by the entire U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia that the federal government may not limit contributions to SpeechNow.org. Yesterday’s judgment clears the way for SpeechNow.org and its supporters to begin speaking.
David Keating, SpeechNow.org’s president and treasurer said, “Now we can start our work to make the First Amendment as important to politicians as it is to all Americans. Politicians are constantly scheming to silence their critics, and this has to stop. This decision is a liberating moment in American politics. Other citizens who care about other causes can now also pool their resources and make their voices heard.”
The District Court’s order did more than simply declare the limits on SpeechNow.org unconstitutional; it gave SpeechNow.org and its prospective donors the injunction they needed to speak without concern. The FEC had opposed an injunction, arguing that the court could trust it not to enforce the law against SpeechNow.org. Notably, however, the FEC did not agree to refrain from enforcing the laws against prospective donors to SpeechNow.org who were not plaintiffs in the case.
“The Supreme Court recognized in Citizens United that the FEC’s business ‘is to censor,’” said Institute for Justice (IJ) Senior Attorney Steve Simpson. IJ along with the Center for Competitive Politics (CCP) represents SpeechNow.org in court. “By enjoining the FEC from enforcing limits against prospective donors to SpeechNow.org, the court has ensured that everyone is free to associate and speak about politics. No one should have to choose between their First Amendment right to speak and their First Amendment right to associate.”
“If the FEC had followed the spirit of Buckley v. Valeo in 1976, this issue would have been settled 34 years ago,” said Bradley Smith, chairman of CCP and former FEC commissioner. “It has taken SpeechNow.org more than two years to be vindicated in court, but this is still a fine day for the First Amendment, for open, competitive elections, and for the citizens that make up SpeechNow.org.”
The Institute for Justice is a nonprofit, public interest law firm that defends free speech and other constitutional rights nationwide. The Center for Competitive Politics is a nonprofit organization formed to educate the public on the actual effects of money in politics, and the results of a more free and competitive electoral process.