Majors v. Abell
Campaign Finance Reform
Majors v. Abell was a challenge to Indianas disclaimer law that requires any advertisement expressly endorsing or opposing a candidate for office to state on its face who paid for the ad and whether the ad was authorized by the candidates campaign committee. Individual citizens sued Indiana in federal court, contending that the statute unconstitutionally violoated their freedom of speech. The parties disputed how broadly the law applied, and the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals asked the Indiana Supreme Court to resolve definitively the meaning of the statute.
The state argued that the statute applied only to ads purchased by political committees, and, as so construed, was clearly constitutional. The plaintiffs conversely contended that the statute was unconstitutional whether it applied only to committees or to all persons, the word used in the statute.
The Brennan Center, representing Common Cause/Indiana as amicus curiae, argued that the statute should be given a broad, natural reading: the disclaimer requirement should apply to all persons. The brief further argued that the statute, so read, would be constitutional, thus pre-empting any effort to force a narrow reading of the statute in order to salvage its constitutionality.
The Indiana Supreme Court agreed. The Court responded to the Seventh Circuits question by giving the word person its normal meaning, and additionally engaged in a lengthy constitutional analysis that ultimately confirmed the statute’s constitutionality.
The case then returned to the Seventh Circuit, which relying on the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in McConnell, found the statute constitutional.
Indiana Supreme Court Finds State’s Campaign Finance Law Constitutional (July 25, 2003)
Indiana’s Campaign Finance Law Under Attack (April 22, 2003)