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Former ACLU Leaders Break From ACLU Position on Constitutionality of Campaign Finance Reform

Nine former leaders of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) today publicly released a joint statement declaring that the current ACLU leadership has misread the First Amendment as it applies to campaign finance laws and that significant campaign fina

June 19, 1998

For Immediate Release
June 19, 1998

Contact Information:
Ken Weine, 212 998-6736

Former ACLU Leaders Break From ACLU Position on Constitutionality of Campaign Finance Reform

Nine former leaders of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) today publicly released a joint statement declaring that the current ACLU leadership has misread the First Amendment as it applies to campaign finance laws and that significant campaign finance reform - including a soft money ban - is constitutional.

The nine former leaders constitute every living person to have served as ACLU President, Executive Director, Legal Director or Legislative Director during the past thirty years, except for one person currently in government service, and therefore, not free to express a personal opinion.

In their statement the former ACLU leaders called for the overturning of Buckley v. Valeo, the landmark Supreme Court campaign finance case, and stated that even within the limitations of Buckley, Congress can eliminate the soft money loophole and regulate so-called “issue advocacy” advertisements.

“While I am proud of my ACLU service and continue to support the ACLU’s matchless efforts to preserve the Bill of Rights, I believe the national ACLU’s position on campaign finance reform is wrong on constitutional and policy grounds,” stated Burt Neuborne, currently the Legal Director of the Brennan Center and formerly the National Legal Director of the ACLU. “Opponents of reform should no longer be permitted to hide behind a constitutional smokescreen.”

Opponents of campaign finance reform have routinely invoked the ACLU as the authority for the argument that efforts to reform campaign finance laws are unconstitutional. Most importantly for the current House debate is the statement’s forceful rejection of the ACLU’s argument that the Supreme Court’s rulings block banning soft money and regulating so-called “issue advertisements” - the key components of Shays-Meehan legislation.

The Brennan Center for Justice is a nonprofit institute devoted to discourse and action on issues of justice central to the jurisprudence of the late Justice William J. Brennan, Jr. Founded three years ago by family members, friends, and former clerks, the center is involved in litigation, public education and scholarship on campaign finance reform.