Campaign finance law’s very own March madness: 2 big court cases announced today

Today the D.C. Circuit announced its opinion in SpeechNow and the District Court released its opinion in RNC v. FEC.

The Center for Competitive Politics Blog has a number of posts about the developments.  Democracy21 and PIRG react here and here.  The Institute for Justice has this press release on SpeechNow.

There will be a lot to digest and surely more to come on the issues discussed in these cases.  I was drawn to footnote 1 of SpeechNow because anything the D.C. Circuit says about “express advocacy” I read very carefully.  A cite to Buckley’s footnote 52 is routine, but whether the Buckley footnote “defines” the term “express advocacy” or does something else has been the subject of debate over the years.  SpeechNow’s footnote 1 explains:

“Express advocacy” is regulated more strictly by the FEC than so-called “issue ads” or other political advocacy that is not related to a specific campaign. In order to preserve the FEC’s regulations from invalidation for being too vague, the Supreme Court has defined express advocacy as “communications containing express words of advocacy of election or defeat, such as ‘vote for,’ ‘elect,’ ‘support,’ ‘cast your ballot for,’ ‘Smith for Congress,’ ‘vote against,’ ‘defeat,’ ‘reject.’” Buckley v. Valeo, 424 U.S. 1, 44 n.52 (1976).

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