Saturday, June 29, 2013

Your Blog is a PAC. Now Pay Up.

Amazingly, even after that horrible McCain-Feingold law got gobsmacked, we are still getting stuff like this. A case regarding...(adapted from source below)... Ed Corsi, an activist and blogger in Ohio. He called his blog the Geauga Constitutional Council, and he paid for the website and any printed material out of his own pocket. Ed's not rich, so he didn't spend much money. A local official who was criticized by Corsi's blog and pamphleteering didn't like what he was up to and complained to the Ohio Election Commission (OEC).

Too often such laws enable government officials to retaliate against critics by throwing them in legal quicksand. Ohio law defines a political action committee (PAC) as two or more persons if their "primary or major purpose . . . is to support or oppose any candidate." This sounds like the law was written so as to comply with the landmark Supreme Court case, Buckley v. Valeo. In that case, the court said groups could be regulated as PACs only if they were "under the control of a candidate or [had] the major purpose" of expressly advocating the election or defeat of candidates.

Unfortunately for Ed, the OEC interpreted the law in a very strange manner. The OEC ignored the vast majority of his blogging on issues and local concerns. Their analysis, if you could dignify it with that word, could be summed up this way: you had people help you with your blog, so you have two or more persons. You endorsed a few candidates. Therefore, you are a PAC, and you violated the law by failing to register as a PAC and report all your activity.

 More after the jump

Yet, as noted in the petition, "no finding was ever made that these statements and publications comprised a majority, plurality, or even a substantial portion of the Council's activity or expenditures." As our Legal Director Allen Dickerson notes, "OEC did not conduct a thorough investigation before ruling that he must register with the government.

 It appears that the OEC can pick what information to examine, and then subject organizations to registration and reporting requirements based solely on some evidence of some political activity. That is not and should not be the law." It's not just Ohio -- such crazy laws or weird interpretations of existing laws are rampant across the country. It's time the Supreme Court put a stop to it, now.

The questions presented to the Supreme Court by the petition are:

1. May the major purpose test for political committee status, established by this Court in Buckley v. Valeo and FEC v. Mass. Citizens for Life, be satisfied without finding that regulated activity comprises the majority of an organization's activity or expenditures?

2. May a state meet its burden of demonstrating an organization's major purpose without determining the portion of its expenditures directed toward political communications?
The petition to be heard in the SCOTUS, or at least read by a clerk." 

(Above portions in italics adapted almost verbatim from material sent out in an email from Center for Competitive Politics.  Here is their post, from which this was copied, with a few changes)

1 comment:

Tom said...

What's missing here? I get that Ohio's lower courts declined to consider the U.S. Constitution and Ohio appellate courts likewise. But after the Ohio supreme court punted, why is the first
federal court to hear this case SCOTUS? Surely, any reasonable federal district judge could read the bold print and toss these charges in the trash.