For Immediate Release
April 22, 2003
Julia Vaughn, Common Cause/Indiana,
Laura Weiner, 212 992–8631
Common Cause/Indiana Files Brief Promoting Disclosure of Political Advertising Funders
CC/IN Opposes Attack on Indianas Campaign Finance Law
On April 22, 2003, Common Cause/Indiana (CC/IN) filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the Indiana Supreme Court, urging the court to prevent opponents of campaign finance reform from opening a loophole in Indianas disclosure requirements. The brief was filed on CC/INs behalf in Majors v. Abell by lawyers from the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law and W. Russell Sipes of the Indianapolis firm Laudig George Rutherford & Sipes.
Indiana law, like the Federal Election Campaign Act and the laws of other states, requires disclosure when special interest groups or individuals expressly advocate the election or defeat of a clearly identified candidate (so-called express advocacy). This means that if third parties run attack ads against a candidate, the voters will know who is behind the ads. Disclosure also helps the public detect favors that successful candidates provide to campaign supporters.
In Majors, the plaintiffs filed a suit in federal court claiming a constitutional right to fund express advocacy anonymously. The federal Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit has now asked the Indiana Supreme Court to determine whether Indianas law applies only to ads that are paid for by candidates campaign committees, or whether it also covers third-party advertising.
Although the law explicitly applies to candidates and other persons who fund express advocacy, the State claims that applies only to candidates. The plaintiffs claim that it not only applies to third parties, it also violates the First Amendment. CC/INs brief argues that Indianas law clearly applies to anyone who engages in express advocacy and explains why the statute is constitutional under that interpretation.
J. J. Gass, Associate Counsel at the Brennan Center, said: Opponents of reform have attacked campaign finance laws in courts around the country, but no court has ever said that a wealthy interest group can fund ads supporting or opposing candidates without some kind of disclosure. Indianas law does not restrict anyones free speech; it just says that when you do run an ad, you have to let voters know who you are.
Julia Vaughn, CC/INs Policy Director, said: We are disappointed that the Attorney General has chosen not to defend the law as the legislature enacted it. Having testified in favor of the disclosure statute in the General Assembly, we know how important it is in protecting Indianas elections from the influence of powerful special interests acting under cover of secrecy. We are confident that the Indiana Supreme Court will give the law the effect that the legislature intended, and we look forward to working with the Attorney General to defend the laws constitutionality when the case returns to federal court.
Argument in Majors is set for May 29 at 9:00 a.m. in the Supreme Court Courtroom, Room 317 at the State House in Indianapolis, Indiana. The argument can also be viewed live over the Internet and will be archived at that site.