Federal Election Commission v. Wisconsin Right to Life, Inc.

Federal Election Commission v. Wisconsin Right to Life, Inc.

Litigants=Federal Election Commission v. Wisconsin Right to Life, Inc.
ArgueDate=April 25
DecideDate=June 25
FullName=Federal Election Commission v. Wisconsin Right to Life, Inc.
CitationNew=551 U.S. ___
Prior= Injunction denied, No. 04-1260, 2004 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 29036 (D.D.C. Aug. 17, 2004); injunction denied, appeal dismissed, No. 04-1260, 2004 U.S. App. LEXIS 18795, (D.D.C. Sept. 1, 2004); injunction denied, 542 U.S. 1305 (2004) (Rehnquist, C.J.); dismissed, No. 04-1260, 2005 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 17226 (D.D.C. May 9, 2005); probable jurisdiction noted, 126 S. Ct. 36 (2005); vacated and remanded, 546 U.S. 410 (2006); summary judgment granted, 466 F. Supp. 2d, at 202; cert. granted
Holding=The Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act's restriction on issue ads in the months preceding elections is unconstitutional.
Majority=Roberts (Parts I and II)
JoinMajority=Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas, Alito
JoinConcurrence=Kennedy, Thomas
JoinDissent=Stevens, Ginsburg, Breyer
LawsApplied=U.S. Const. amend. I

"Federal Election Commission v. Wisconsin Right to Life, Inc.", 551 U.S. ___ (2007) , [ [http://laws.findlaw.com/us/000/06-969.html Full text of the Supreme Court opinion] from FindLaw] was a case in which the Supreme Court of the United States held that issue ads may not be banned from the months preceding a primary or general election.


In 2002, the Congress passed the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act ("McCain-Feingold") to regulate money in public election campaigns. One provision of the legislation limited "issue ads," those ads using a candidate's name with regards to a particular issue, such as abortion. Section 203 prohibited issue ads within 30 days of a primary election and 60 days of a general election. In "McConnell v. Federal Election Commission", the Supreme Court upheld section 203 and other sections against a facial challenge that the law was unconstitutional. This left a significant open question about whether the FEC could constitutionally apply (enforce) the law.


The Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, crafted a major exception to the limitations on broadcast ads within 30 days of a primary or 60 days of a general election. The court ruled that unless an ad could not reasonably be interpreted as anything other than an ad urging the support or defeat of a candidate, it was eligible for an "as applied" exception to the McCain-Feingold limits on issue ads close to an election.

The decision of the court by Chief Justice John G. Roberts is most notable for its strong language (it concludes "Enough is enough") and for demonstrating a skepticism of campaign finance regulation that was absent in "McConnell". Roberts' opinion, however, was joined only by Justice Samuel Alito. The rest of the majority consisted of Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, and Clarence Thomas, who would have gone further and simply reversed "McConnell" altogether.

Justices John Paul Stevens, Stephen Breyer, David Souter, and Ruth Bader Ginsberg dissented.

ee also

* List of United States Supreme Court cases, volume 551


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