PI in West Virginia State Case

The Center for Individual Freedom won a PI in Center for Individual Freedom v. Ireland, a case challenging West Virginia’s regulation of certain types of advocacy communications.  The opinion isn’t available at the court’s website now, but it should appear here when it is.  BNA (subscription required) reports:

A federal judge in West Virginia April 22 granted a preliminary injunction blocking enforcement of West Virginia state laws barring corporate funding of election-related communications and requiring disclosure of those funding such communications (Center for Individual Freedom Inc. v. Ireland, S.D. W.Va., 08-190, 4/22/08).

A 17-page ruling by Judge David Faber of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia, Bluefield Division, said state campaign finance laws cannot regulate financing of messages unless they include specific words of express advocacy for or against candidates. West Virginia’s laws regulating independent political expenditures and electioneering communications are too broad and vague and thus violate the First Amendment, the judge said.

Faber’s opinion relied heavily on the U.S. Supreme Court’s most recent campaign finance decision in Wisconsin Right to Life Inc. (WRTL) v. Federal Election Commission. The ruling, handed down last year, said corporate funding for certain political advertising related to policy issues could not be banned.

Faber also noted the Supreme Court’s 2003 decision in McConnell v. FEC, which upheld disclosure of those funding electioneering communications–defined as messages referring to candidates in the weeks before an election. However, the federal law involved in the McConnell case affected only television and radio messages, while the West Virginia laws also cover print advertising, direct mail, and telephone calls, and other media.

. . .

Faber said he could uphold the state law only insofar as it requires disclosure of those funding broadcast messages.

“The court is not convinced that there exists an empirical justification for regulating mailings, faxes, e-mails, phone banks, leaflets pamphlets and other printed or published materials,” the judge said. “These modes of communication, as opposed to television and radio broadcasts, are unlikely to create the appearance of corruption as they are neither as expensive nor as effective.”

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