July 13, 2020

Court dismisses Civic League federal election-law challenge

PORTLAND – The Supreme Court on Monday refused to consider a lawsuit by a conservative group that was blocked from airing ads about same-sex marriage.

Last spring, the Christian Civic League of Maine attempted to run ads about Maine’s two U.S. senators, but a three-judge panel of the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., halted the effort and the Supreme Court refused to step in at the time. On Monday, the court issued a one-line order saying the appeal is dismissed as moot.

Federal election law bars corporations and labor unions from paying for any radio or TV broadcast items referring to a candidate for federal office within 30 days of a federal primary election or 60 days of a general election.

The league had wanted to run the ads in time for the Senate debate on a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. The proposal was defeated June 7.

The proposed ad asked the public to call Maine’s two senators, Republicans Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, and urge them to vote for the amendment. Snowe ran unopposed in her party’s June 13 primary.

The Christian Civic League asked the Supreme Court to consider whether the prohibition violates the group’s free speech rights.

“Even though we have an election, Congress is still in session legislating, and citizens should be able to petition their legislator,” James Bopp Jr., the league’s lawyer, said Monday in a telephone interview from Indiana.

The FEC and key lawmakers in Congress said the group’s appeal is moot because the preliminary injunction sought last spring would no longer have any effect.

The league asked for the injunction against “electioneering communication” provisions of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002.

The Supreme Court’s decision on the preliminary injunction followed the District Court’s dismissal of the lawsuit last week.

Bopp said he plans to appeal the District Court’s dismissal of the case to the Supreme Court. “What was moot was consideration of the preliminary injunction,” he said. “Now we’re going to appeal the merits of the case.”

The case is the Christian Civic League of Maine v. Federal Election Commission, 05-1447.

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