Leading Civil Libertarians Urge Supreme Court to Uphold Anti-Corruption Laws

February 23, 2007

For Immediate Release

February 23, 2007

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Mike Webb, 212-998-6746

Leading Civil Libertarians Urge Supreme Court to Uphold Anti-Corruption Laws

New York, NY - Today, the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court, seeking to end maneuvering by proponents and opponents of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA). The brief was filed on behalf of four former leaders of the ACLU in the FEC v. Wisconsin Right To Life, Inc. case, which will be heard by the High Court this Spring. 

The case involves ads aired by Wisconsin Right To Life (WRTL) during the 2004 re-election campaign of Senator Russ Feingold. WRTL, a non-profit corporation that accepts substantial funding from for-profit corporations, argues that it is entitled to an exemption from BCRAs prohibition on corporate electioneering because its ads did not expressly advocate voting against Feingold. But the advertisements directed listeners to a website explicitly opposed to Sen. Feingold’s re-election and were part of a long campaign by WRTL to oust the Senator.

“BCRA struck a careful constitutional balance between interests in curbing corporate funding of electioneering and protecting genuine issue speech,” said Deborah Goldberg, the Director of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center. “The Supreme Court has upheld this balance twice since BCRAs enactment. The Brennan Center joins the Amici in supporting both a robust First Amendment and meaningful restrictions on electioneering by corporations. We hope the Court will end the strategic game being waged by both sides to push constitutional law to an extreme position.”

The brief was filed on behalf of Norman Dorsen, Aryeh Neier, John Shattuck and Burt Neuborne who were members of the American Civil Liberties Union prior to 1986, but have since left the organization. They seek to prevent proponents of corporate-funded electioneering from creating a loophole in BCRA in the name of preserving constitutionally protected issue speech and to stop opponents of corporate-funded electoral speech from over-regulating genuine issue speech in the name of preserving BCRA.