Washington, D.C. As it prepares to release its hard-hitting political documentary, Hillary: The Movie, Citizens United, a grassroots advocacy organization, led by election law attorney James Bopp, Jr., today filed suit against the Federal Election Commission, arguing that issue-oriented television ads are protected by the First Amendment and should not be subject to disclosure requirements under McCain-Feingold campaign finance law.
At issue are sections of the 2002 Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (McCain-Feingold) that imposed a blackout period before elections on television advertisements that mentioned the name of a federal candidate — electioneering communications. Earlier this year, the United States Supreme Court, in Federal Election Commission vs. Wisconsin Right to Life, ruled that groups could not be prohibited from running genuine issue ads, during the blackout period, but the FEC has insisted that such groups must still put disclaimers on the ads and file reports about the ads, including naming their contributors. Citizens United is challenging these disclosure requirements, arguing the ads for the film, Hillary: The Movie, is a commercial ad, exempted in recent FEC rulemaking, and that disclosure requirements cannot be applied to such ads consistent with the First Amendment.
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Citizens United has retained James Bopp, Jr., the Indiana attorney who successfully argued the Wisconsin Right to Life case.
In a complaint filed with the U.S. District Court today, Bopp asserts that Citizens United intends to publish advertisements that will meet the statutory definition of electioneering communicationsbut are not properly considered electioneering communications for any purpose, including disclosure, because the ads may reasonably be interpreted as something other than as an appeal to vote for our against a specific candidate, are not the functional equivalent of express advocacy and therefore fall outside the scope for McConnells holding.
Citizens United has asked for an injunction so that they may begin running their ads by the first of the year.