Federal Court Set to Take Up Landmark Election Law Case

January 11, 2012

Federal Court Set to Take Up Landmark Election Law Case

HLF Defends First Amendment Freedoms in Van Hollen v. Federal Election Commission

WASHINGTON, D.C.–Following the United States District Court for the District of Columbia’s decision permitting the Hispanic Leadership Fund to intervene as a defendant in U.S. Representative Chris Van Hollen’s (D-MD) lawsuit against the Federal Election Commission challenging the Federal Election Commission’s donor disclosure rules, the federal court is set to hear arguments on Wednesday, January 11, 2012.

Hispanic Leadership Fund President Mario H. Lopez said, “We are glad that the Hispanic Leadership Fund can be at the forefront of protecting the First Amendment rights of our members and all who seek to inform the American public about political candidates and their positions on issues.  We will continue to oppose liberal attempts to force federal courts to impose rules restricting free speech. ”

In April of last year, after Congress failed to pass the DISCLOSE Act, which aimed to counter the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which determined that corporations, including non-profits like the Hispanic Leadership Fund, have a constitutional right to engage in independent expenditures.  The FEC declined to impose similar free speech restrictions through additional regulations.  Van Hollen then filed this lawsuit as a last resort attempt to push courts to impose DISCLOSE Act-style regulations on groups that exercise their First Amendment rights.

“This case exposes the Left’s version of government: they want to force the FEC to unilaterally impose rules that the Supreme Court has already rejected and that twice failed in Congress,” said Lopez.  “Because we spread the message of free enterprise, economic opportunity, and prosperity, the Hispanic Leadership Fund and our rapidly growing number of supporters represent a threat to those in power who want to impose Big Government controls on Americans’ liberties, increase damaging government dependency, and severely hinder our ability to communicate our message.”

In the fall of 2010, the Hispanic Leadership Fund paid for an electioneering communication mentioning a candidate for Congress in a Florida congressional district.  Had the rules that Van Hollen advocates been in place at the time, HLF’s speech could have been chilled due to concerns about the disclosure of donors.  In the filings in this case, Van Hollen makes clear that he wants the ability to attack donors to groups funding ads, saying in a sworn declaration that he suffered injury, “because I cannot draw attention to the person or persons who finance electioneering communications about me. . . .”    It is very clear that Van Hollen seeks these disclosures so that he can discourage outside speakers from exercising their constitutionally protected rights.

As a result of tomorrow’s hearing, the district court decision could be issued just as the 2012 election cycle heats up.  the decision will have a major impact on the rights of groups’ to speak under the First Amendment.

Jason Torchinsky, partner at Holtzman Vogel PLLC and counsel to Hispanic Leadership Fund, said, “This is a very important case because it could impact the donor disclosure rules for any organizations looking to spend money during the 2012 election cycle.  In a post-Citizens United world, liberals continue to try to undermine existing rules regarding donor disclosure.”