Federal District Court Rules South Carolina’s Political Committee Law is Unconstitutional

James Madison Center for Free Speech
1 South 6th Street
Terre Haute, IN 47807
www.jamesmadisoncenter.org

PRESS RELEASE
September 15, 2010
Contact: James Bopp, Jr.
Phone: 812/232-2434; Fax 812/235-3685

Federal District Court Rules South Carolina’s Political Committee Law is Unconstitutional

Yesterday, a federal court ruled that South Carolina cannot force advocacy groups to become political committees simply because they spend more than $500 “to influence the outcome of an elective office.” In the fall of 2006, South Carolina Citizens for Life (SCCL) wanted to mail voter guides offering information on candidates’ positions on various pro-life issues. Had it done so, the spending would have required it to register and report as a political committee or face civil or criminal penalties. Lawyers with the James Madison Center for Free Speech filed suit on behalf of SCCL, challenging South Carolina’s political committee law. Yesterday, the federal court ruled that the political committee definition was unconstitutional and cannot be enforced.

James Bopp, Jr., lead counsel in the case, said that “once again, a federal court has ruled that government cannot regulate groups as political committees simply because they spend a certain amount on communications that mention candidates and their positions on issues.” “The Supreme Court and many other federal courts have held that such groups can be regulated as political committees only if it is their major purpose to elect or defeat a candidate—and laws that do not consider groups’ major purpose are unconstitutional.”

The opinion is available at www.jamesmadisoncenter.org. the James Madison Center’s website, under the tab titled “SCCL v. Krawcheck.”

James Bopp, Jr. has a national federal and state election law practice. He is General Counsel for the James Madison Center for Free Speech and Co-Chairman of the Election Law Subcommittee of the Federalist Society.