Supreme Court Hears Pro-Life Group’s Campaign Finance Lawsuit

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jan 17, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Supreme Court Hears Pro-Life Group’s Campaign Finance Lawsuit Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
January 17, 2006

Washington, DC ( — The Supreme Court on Tuesday held hearings on a pro-life group’s efforts to overturn a national campaign finance law’s restrictions on advertising that mentions the name of a political candidate just before an election.

In 2004, Wisconsin Right to Life (WRTL) took out newspaper ads urging citizens to contact their U.S. senators and urge them not to filibuster Bush’s pro-life judicial nominees.

However, the ads ran afoul of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law that bars political groups from mentioning the names of federal candidates 30 days before a primary and 60 days before a general election.

WRTL filed a lawsuit to overturn the provisions and it has made its way to the Supreme Court.

As with other issues affecting pro-life groups, the members of the court seemed divided on the 2002 law.

Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, who could be serving her last week on the high court if Judge Samuel Alito is confirmed to replace her, spoke in favor of the ad ban. On the other hand Chief Justice John Roberts questioned its legitimacy.

The Supreme Court previously ruled 5-4 in 2003 to uphold the provision but WRTL says the provision should be used to restrict ads from groups engaging in lobbying whose ads are unrelated to the election.

Justice Stephen Breyer told Jim Bopp, the pro-life attorney representing WRTL that there is nothing new in this case from the 2003 decision.

But Bopp said the law is being applied in an unconstitutional manner.

"There is an immediate need to influence how government is regulating and taxing us,” Bopp said. "There’s more to government than elections.”

Roberts indicated that the high court couldn’t rule in 2003 that specific groups could challenge the application of the law and then disallow those groups from filing lawsuits as WRTL did.

In the 2003 ruling, O’Connor joined Justices John Paul Stevens, David Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Breyer in upholding the law and the ad band and all of them spoke in favor of the law today, according to a Bloomberg News report.

Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia and Anthony Kennedy spoke against the provision and Justice Clarence Thomas joined Scalia and Kennedy in dissenting in 2003.

Should Alito join the court, the decision would likely be 4-4 and the case might be reargued with Alito joining the hearings or he could make a decision based on the transcripts and legal briefs.

Ironically pro-abortion groups including NARAL and the Alliance for Justice filed legal briefs defending WRTL’s lawsuit.