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

Term: 2006 Term
Oral Argument Date: April 25, 2007
Vote: 5-4
Opinion: Roberts
Lower Court: U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia

Question(s) Presented

Whether the three-judge district court erred in holding that the federal statutory prohibition on a corporation’s use of general treasury funds to finance “electioneering communications” is unconstitutional as applied to three broadcast advertisements that appellee proposed to run in 2004.

NCLC's Position

NCLC urged the Supreme Court to issue clear guidance as it considers whether grassroots lobbying activity should be constitutionally protected from prosecution under the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA). In this case, Wisconsin Right to Life, Inc. planned to run a series of ads urging Wisconsin viewers to contact their senators to oppose judicial filibusters. However, one of the senators, Senator Russ Feingold, was up for reelection so the electioneering blackout periods of BCRA applied, which bans corporate speech on television or radio 30 days before a primary election and 60 days before a general election. In its brief, NCLC argued that the court should fashion a test protecting such grassroots lobbying but should take care not to adopt a test which leaves speakers uncertain whether the First Amendment protects their speech or not.

Case Outcome

As urged by NCLC, the Supreme Court provided clear guidance that grassroots lobbying activity is constitutionally protected from prosecution under BCRA.

Justices in Majority
Alito
Kennedy
Roberts
Scalia
Thomas
Justices in Minority
Breyer
Ginsburg
Souter
Stevens
Procedural History

Amicus brief filed 3/23/07. Oral argument held 4/25/07. Decided 6/25/07.

Case Documents