ACLU Joins Broad Coalition in Constitutional Challenge to Campaign Finance Law

April 10, 2002 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON — The American Civil Liberties Union announced today that it is joining with Senator Mitch McConnell and others in a constitutional challenge to the recently adopted campaign finance law. The decision to join the lawsuit reflects the ACLU’s longstanding view that campaign finance reform cannot be achieved by censoring speech.

“The ACLU supports campaign finance reform through a system of fair and adequate public financing,” said Anthony Romero, the ACLU’s Executive Director. “Unfortunately, Congress chose instead to enact a law that places unprecedented restrictions on the ability to engage in political speech during the critical period preceding an election.”

“The law creates more problems with the nation’s campaign finance system than it solves,” Romero added.

The impact of the law will be felt directly by organizations like the ACLU, which has never endorsed or opposed a candidate for political office in its 82-year history. However, as the nation’s oldest and largest civil liberties organization, the ACLU frequently takes public positions on important civil liberties issues.

Last month, for example, the ACLU purchased a radio advertisement in the congressional district of Dennis Hastert, Speaker of the House of Representatives. The ad called on Speaker Hastert to permit a floor vote on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), a bill to prohibit employment discrimination against gays and lesbians. The ad did not take any position for or against the reelection of Speaker Hastert, who was running unopposed. Yet, under the new campaign finance law, the ACLU can no longer broadcast that ad within 30 days of a primary or 60 days of a general election. The ACLU advertisement can be found at: /node/9413

“By targeting such classic political speech, the new campaign finance law is directly at odds with the core First Amendment holding of Buckley v. Valeo, the Supreme Court’s landmark decision on campaign finance reform, which the ACLU helped litigate a quarter century ago,” said Steven R. Shapiro, the ACLU’s National Legal Director.

Other provisions challenged in the suit, including the soft money restrictions, infringe the speech and associational rights of individuals, parties, candidates and groups.

In addition to fighting the restrictive new campaign finance law, the ACLU said it will continue to urge Congress to take seriously the idea of public financing for all federal elections.

An ACLU fact sheet on why the law is unconstitutional is online at /node/20713

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