Justia Election Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Business Law
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The issue this case presented for the Washington Supreme Court's review was whether the penalty for intentionally concealing the source of political contributions could be based on the amount concealed. Washington voters proposed and passed Washington’s Fair Campaign Practices Act (FCPA or act), ch. 42.17A RCW. The FCPA compels disclosure and “compelled disclosure may encroach on First Amendment rights by infringing on the privacy of association and belief.” In 2012, California voters were presented with Proposition 37, which would have required some manufacturers to disclose whether packaged food contained genetically modified organisms (GMO). The Grocery Manufacturer’s Association (GMA) and many of its member companies successfully campaigned against Proposition 37, and some received negative responses from the public for doing so. In the wake of the Proposition 37 campaign, Washington sponsors filed Initiative 522, which also would have required GMO labels on packaged food. And like Proposition 37, GMA opposed it. GMA raised more than $14 million to oppose GMO labeling efforts. GMA in turn contributed $11 million to the “No on 522” campaign from the Defense of Brands strategic account. Despite its political activities in Washington, GMA did not register as a political committee with the Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) and did not make any PDC reports until after this lawsuit was filed. In response to the suit, GMA registered “under duress” but, as of the time of trial, still had not filed all of the required reports. The State sued, contending that GMA intentionally, flagrantly, and repeatedly violated the FCPA. The trial court specifically rejected testimony from GMA officers that they had not intended to violate the law, finding “it is not credible that GMA executives believed that shielding GMA’s members as the true source of contributions to GMA’s Defense of Brands Account was legal.” A majority of the Washington Supreme Court concluded GMA did not show that the trial court erred in imposing a punitive sanction under the FCPA based on the amount intentionally concealed. The Court thus affirmed the courts below and remanded for any further proceedings necessary. View "Washington v. Grocery Mfrs. Ass'n" on Justia Law

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At issue before the Oklahoma Supreme Court in this case was a challenge to the legal sufficiency of Initiative Petition No. 409. Respondents-proponents Retail Liquor Association of Oklahoma and Bryan Kerr filed Initiative Petition No. 409 with the Oklahoma Secretary of State, seeking to amend the Oklahoma Constitution by repealing Article 28 and adopting Article 28A. Article 28A as proposed, would have allowed wine to be sold in grocery stores. Also under the proposed article, retail package stores could sell any and all items that were sold in convenience stores and grocery stores. Small brewers could sell their products at a brewery or festival or trade show and could sell alcoholic beverages by the drink at a restaurant co-located on the premises of the brewery. Petitioners-opponents Oklahoma Grocers Association and Ron Edgmon filed an Application to Assume Original Jurisdiction with the Supreme Court to protest: (1) the constitutionality of the petition; and (2) the statutory sufficiency of the gist of the petition. Upon review, the Supreme Court held that the gist of the petition did not fairly describe the proposed constitutional amendment and was invalid. View "In re Initiative Petition No. 409, State Question No. 785" on Justia Law

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Montana state law provides that a "corporation may not make ... an expenditure in connection with a candidate or a political committee that supports or opposes a candidate or a political party." Mont. Code 13–35–227(1). The Montana Supreme Court rejected a claim that the statute violated the First Amendment. The Supreme Court reversed the Montana decision, based on its 2010 decision, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, in which the Court struck down a similar federal law, holding that "political speech does not lose First Amendment protection simply because its source is a corporation." Dissenting Justices Breyer, Ginsburg, Sotomayor, and Kagan stated that "Montana’s experience, like considerable experience elsewhere since the Court’s decision in Citizens United, casts grave doubt on the Court’s supposition that independent expenditures do not corrupt or appear to do so." View "Am. Tradition P'ship, Inc. v. Bullock" on Justia Law

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Montana state law provides that a "corporation may not make ... an expenditure in connection with a candidate or a political committee that supports or opposes a candidate or a political party." Mont. Code 13–35–227(1). The Montana Supreme Court rejected a claim that the statute violated the First Amendment. The Supreme Court reversed the Montana decision, based on its 2010 decision, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, in which the Court struck down a similar federal law, holding that "political speech does not lose First Amendment protection simply because its source is a corporation." Dissenting Justices Breyer, Ginsburg, Sotomayor, and Kagan stated that "Montana’s experience, like considerable experience elsewhere since the Court’s decision in Citizens United, casts grave doubt on the Court’s supposition that independent expenditures do not corrupt or appear to do so." View "Am. Tradition P'ship, Inc. v. Bullock" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, Western Tradition Partnership (WTP), Champion Painting, and Montana Shooting Sports Foundation (MSSF), sued the Montana Attorney General and the Commissioner of Political Practices, seeking a declaration that Mont. Code Ann. 13-35-227(1) violated their freedom of speech protected by the state and federal Constitutions by prohibiting political expenditures by corporations on behalf of or opposing candidates for public office. The district court declared the statute unconstitutional, granted summary judgment for Plaintiffs, enjoined enforcement of the statute, and denied the motion of Champion and MSSF for an award of attorney fees. The Supreme Court reversed and entered summary judgment in favor of Defendants after applying the principles enunciated in Citizens United v. F.E.C., holding that Montana has a compelling interest to impose the challenged rationally-tailored statutory restrictions. View "Western Tradition P'ship v. Attorney General" on Justia Law