The Campaign Legal Center has alerted its readers to a “flood” of challenges to campaign finance laws, and its message is that the reform advocates must remain at their battle stations. It is certainly true that interests hostile to any campaign finance regulation are hard at work; they might well believe that in this time, with this Supreme Court, their moment has come and no time should be wasted. But not all of these challenges are fairly lumped together and described as one indiscriminate assault against any and all reasonable regulation. A few raise questions that even those favoring reasonable limits on campaign finance should take—and address—seriously. The case of Worley v. Fla. Sec’y of State, 717 F.3d 1238 (11th Cir. 2013), is one such case, a challenge to an application of a state requirement that individuals supporting or opposing a ballot initiative must register and report through a political action committee (PAC). The Eleventh Circuit rejected the claim, which is now before the Supreme Court on a petition for certiorari. The four petitioners in Worley argue that PAC requirements, if a burden on corporations in the manner described by the Supreme Court in Citizens United, must fall even more heavily and just as permissibly on individuals banded together in limited, inexpensive “grassroots” political enterprises.
In 2010, the petitioners had launched a project to finance $600 in radio ads opposing a state constitutional amendment, and while they do not deny the state’s authority to promulgate properly tailored disclosure requirements, they do protest a requirement that they bear all the registration, organizational and record-keeping requirements of a PAC. Petition for Writ of Certiorari at 24, Worley v. Fla. Sec’y of State, 717 F.3d 1238 (11th Cir. 2013) (arguing against imposition of PAC requirement, not “some appropriately tailored form of disclosure”).
We are back here to the recurring question of whether the campaign finance doctrine has have taken a perverse turn, providing an increasingly manageable regulatory environment for corporations and the well-heeled while complicating, in expense and regulatory risk, the conduct of lower cost, smaller-scale activities that individuals organize and finance to advance a common goal. The question, in short, of the “big guy” v. the “little guy.” The Eleventh Circuit decision appealed by the Worley plaintiffs shows how, particularly after Citizens United, a court can display mostly indifference to the problem and leave doctrine the worse for it.
Full Article: The Corporation and the Little Guy in the 11th Circuit.