On September 1, 2009, the 1851 Center filed an amicus brief defending the First Amendment rights of SpeechNow.org in its legal battle with the Federal Elections Commission. The FEC viewed the non-profit much like a political action committee or PAC. The 1851 Center’s brief argued SpeechNow.org is not a political committee that makes contributions to candidates, and its subjection to harsh campaign finance laws are an unconstitutional violation of the freedoms of political speech and association. It emphasized that political speech made by citizens in a grassroots organization is protected by the First Amendment.
The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with the 1851 Center’s position and provided SpeechNow.org with a significant and precedent-setting victory. The court’s ruling effectively blocks government-set caps on contributions to independent political groups. The decision is being hailed as a major victory for free speech and a significant bolstering of First Amendment rights. Further, the decision was the first major court decision on campaign finance issues since the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark Citizens United ruling.
September 1, 2009: 1851 Center’s Amicus Brief
March 26, 2010: Federal Court’s Decision