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

Grassroots Lobbying and the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act

Term: 2006 Term
Oral Argument Date: Apr 25, 2007
Vote: 5-4
Opinion: Roberts
Questions 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.

U.S. Chamber'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.

Outcome Content: 

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

Justices in Majority: 
Justices in Minority: 
Procedural History: 

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