Huckabee Fans Ask Court to Pre-Empt FEC

     WASHINGTON (CN) – A super PAC supporting Mike Huckabee for president asked a federal judge to force the Federal Elections Commission to let it use the candidate’s name on its website and Facebook page.
     In a July 27 complaint, super PAC Pursuing America’s Greatness says the order is necessary in light of a recent FEC determination that supporters of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders who operate several the websites RunBernieRun.com, ProBernie.com, BelieveInBernie.com, the Facebook page “Run Bernie Run,” and the Twitter accounts “@Bernie_Run” and “@ProBernie” violated federal election law because they do not directly raise funds for their candidate’s campaign or, in the alternative, oppose his candidacy.
     “The [Federal Election Campaign Act] provides that ‘in the case of any political committee which is not an authorized committee, such political committee shall not include the name of any candidate in its name,'” the complaint says.
     The only exception is in the case of committees that oppose a candidacy.
     The FEC adopted “limited exceptions to this rule, including that ‘an unauthorized political committee may include the name of the candidate in the title of a special project communication if the title clearly and unambiguously shows opposition to the named candidate,'” the plaintiff says.
     In April 1994 the “‘opposition’ exemption was adopted after the FEC received a Petition for Rulemaking from ‘Citizens Against David Duke,’ a proposed project of the American Ideas Foundation…The FEC was responsive to this request and ‘acceded to the petitioner’s main concern, amending the rules to permit the American Ideas Foundation to use the names of federal candidates in titles that clearly indicate opposition to such candidates,”‘ the lawsuit states, and continues, “The FEC ‘recognized that the potential for fraud and abuse is significantly reduced in the case of such titles,” according to the complaint.
     Pursuing America’s Greatness seeks a declaration that the FEC’s guideline is arbitrary, and that it is also unreasonable in today’s Internet savvy world.
     For instance, “in 1991, an unauthorized political committee simply had to choose a PAC name that didn’t include a federal candidate’s name, while today, an organization such as PAG may not communicate with supporters through a Facebook page with the heading ‘I Like Mike Huckabee,’ although ‘I Don’t Like Mike Huckabee’ would be acceptable,” the super PAC says. (emphasis in original)
     Pursuing America’s Greatness says the regulation is inconsistent with the rules governing URLs and social media accounts not related to fundraising solicitations, and is arbitrary, capricious and an abuse of discretion.
     “A FEC regulation that prohibits independent speakers from using certain words – the names of candidates for public office unless in opposition – in their website URLs and in titles of social media web pages and accounts is a prior restraint on speech that violates the First Amendment,” the group says.
     Pursuing America’s Greatness seeks a declaration that it can use Mike Huckabee’s name in the website, Facebook and URLs it operates without threat of fines or other notifications it is in violation of FEC regulations.
     The super PAC is represented by Jason Torchinsky of Holtzman Vogel Josefiak Pllc in Warrenton, Va.

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