CFIF charged provisions were vague and overbroad, thus violating the First Amendment. 

"This stipulated judgment is a great victory for the First Amendment," said Renee Giachino, CFIF's General Counsel. 


August 14, 2007

Center for Individual Freedom Secures Free Speech Victory in Pennsylvania

Lawsuit Clarifies that Enforcement of State Campaign Finance Law Must be Limited to "Express Advocacy," Enabling CFIF and Other Similarly Situated Speakers to Broadcast Independent Issue Ads Close to Elections

ALEXANDRIA, VA —The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania last Friday declared in a stipulated judgment that portions of Pennsylvania's campaign finance law "regulating any 'expenditure in connection with an election of any candidate or for any political purpose whatever'" were properly construed as applying only to spending for "express advocacy" as it's defined in the U.S. Supreme Court's Buckley v. Valeo decision. 

The stipulated judgment, which was agreed to by the Center for Individual Freedom (CFIF) and Pennsylvania Attorney General Thomas Corbett, resulted from a lawsuit CFIF filed charging that the challenged provisions were vague and overbroad and thus violated the First Amendment. 

CFIF wishes to broadcast independent issue ads in Pennsylvania prior to the upcoming November 2007 statewide elections.  Preceding this judgment, CFIF alleged that the challenged provisions did not provide tailored and objective guidance as required by U.S. Supreme Court precedent.  The threat of punishment and prosecution resulted in self-censorship. 

That threat has been effectively eliminated by the stipulated judgment, and CFIF and other organizations are now able to speak freely in Pennsylvania close to elections, provided they do not "expressly advocate" the election or defeat of candidates.

"This stipulated judgment is a great victory for the First Amendment," said Renee Giachino, CFIF's General Counsel.  "It provides a clear and objective standard so speakers in Pennsylvania know in advance precisely what is and what is not permitted — something the U.S. Supreme Court has said is necessary time and time again.

"We thank Attorney General Corbett for his willingness to take a clear-eyed look at what the U.S. Supreme Court has said and act decisively to provide precise guidance," Giachino continued.  "The Attorney General's responsible commitment to the rule of law and respect for precedent prevented months of litigation and the costs thereof to the taxpayers of Pennsylvania." 

In 2006, CFIF prevailed in a similar lawsuit against a Louisiana statute almost identical to that of Pennsylvania.  And this past term, the U.S. Supreme Court, in FEC v. Wisconsin Right to Life, ruled the blackout period created by the "electioneering communication" prohibition in McCain-Feingold could not prohibit ads that do not advocate the election or defeat of a clearly identified candidate.

"The new U.S. Supreme Court majority has called a clear end to the era of loosey-goosey speech restrictions triggered by the McConnell decision in 2003," said Thomas W. Kirby, a partner in the Washington, D.C. firm Wiley Rein LLP, and CFIF's counsel in both Pennsylvania and Louisiana.  "Unless state speech restrictions are objective, precise, and narrowly tailored to a proved compelling interest, they are going to be struck down," Kirby concluded.

In addition to Mr. Kirby, CFIF was represented by Jan Witold Baran and Caleb P. Burns of Wiley Rein LLP, and by John F. Smith, III and R. Clayton Alspach of the Philadelphia, PA law firm Reed Smith LLP.

[Posted August 14, 2007
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