ON-Lion Letter
In the next landmark case challenging campaign-finance restrictions after the historic Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission decision, the Institute for Justice (IJ) in Arlington, Va., and the Center for Competitive Politics (CCP) in Alexandria, Va., filed a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court in July to review a case challenging federal laws that impose enormous burdens on grassroots groups that simply want to speak out in elections.

SpeechNow.org, represented by IJ and CCP, is a group of citizens that wants to defend free speech at the ballot box by running advertisements in opposition to candidates who do not support First Amendment rights.  But under federal law, if the group spends more than a small amount of money on ads that call for the election or defeat of political candidates, it must register with the government as a political action committee, or "PAC," and be subjected to a host of burdensome regulations before speaking.
 
SpeechNow.org filed its lawsuit in February 2008, arguing that the campaign-finance laws that apply to PACs could not constitutionally apply to a group that simply engages in independent political speech -- speech that is not coordinated with any political candidates.  After more than two years of litigation, in March 2010, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a unanimous, nine-judge decision holding that SpeechNow.org could accept unlimited donations to fund its political ads.  Unfortunately, the court also held that if SpeechNow.org chose to speak out, it would have to register with the government as a PAC.

"In the wake of Citizens United, it is vitally important that the Supreme Court take up this case," according to Bradley Prize recipient Bradley A. Smith, a former Federal Elections Commission chairman and current CCP chairman.  "Groups of ordinary citizens deserve the same First Amendment protections given to corporations and unions."  Speechnow.org v. Federal Elections Commission "will give the Supreme Court a chance to ensure that politics doesn't become a game for political insiders."

The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation in Milwaukee supports both IJ and CCP.
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