Latest Shays Opinion

The D.C. Circuit just handed down its latest opinion in the Shays litigation.   The opinion discusses a number of issues, including the coordination standard, the FEC’s definition of GOTV, and the so-called carve out for candidate appearances at state and local party events (not so much of a carve out after all, it looks like).  It looks like the firewall safe harbor survives.  But add a few more regulations projects on to the list of what the newly-constituted FEC must tackle.  And a few more headaches for campaigns and parties (and perhaps other groups) planning to conduct voter outreach programs under a set of rules that today’s opinion seemingly casts asunder.

UPDATE:   In rejecting the 90/120 day windows in the coordination rule, the opinion concludes:

Under the present rules, any lawyer worth her salt, if asked by an organization how to influence a federal candidate’s election, would undoubtedly point to the possibility of coordinating pre-window expenditures. The FEC’s claim that no one will take advantage of the enormous loophole it has created ignores both history and human nature.

The opinion rejected regulations defining get out the vote activity and voter registration.

The FEC’s restrictive definitions of GOTV activity and voter registration activity run directly counter to BCRA’s purpose, and the Commission has provided no persuasive justification for them.

Regarding the FEC’s regualtion on federal candidate appearances at state and local party fundraisers, the opinion rejected the FEC’s rationale:

In our view, the regulation fails because it allows what BCRA directly prohibits.

UPDATE:  I may have been too eager to deem the case “Shays IV.”  The CLC discusses the case here.

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