Iowa Election Law Curbed for Anti-Abortion Group

     ST. LOUIS (CN) – The 8th Circuit struck down part of Iowa’s election law, making it easier for special interest groups to spend on behalf of, but not coordinate with, political campaigns.
     Iowa amended its campaign-finance laws after the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.
     The Iowa Right to Life Committee still claimed, however, that various provisions of the state’s new laws violated the First and 14th Amendments.
     The abortion-opposed nonprofit claimed that the laws kept in 2010 from making an independent expenditure over $750 to support the election of a candidate for attorney general, as well as another $100 contribution to the same candidate.
     It claimed that it could qualify under the law as a political committee or permanent organization, thereby improperly imposing the status of a political action committee and burdening it without regard to whether its “major purpose” is expressly advocating the nomination or election of candidates.
     In addition to complaining about “PAC-style burdens,” the group also claimed that the laws improperly banned direct corporate contributions to candidates.
     The group lastly took issue with a requirement for a corporation’s board of directors to authorize independent expenditures in advance, coupled with authorization from an officer of the corporation.
     A federal judge in Iowa refused to grant a preliminary injunction and upheld the challenged provisions, relying on advice from the state Supreme Court.
     The St. Louis-based federal appeals court partly reversed last week, however, finding that the law unjustly singled out corporations.
     “Requiring a group to file perpetual, ongoing reports ‘regardless of [its]
     purpose,’ and regardless of whether it ever makes more than a single independent expenditure, is ‘no more than tenuously related to’ Iowa’s informational interest,” Judge Duane Benton wrote for a three-person panel. “Though narrow tailoring is not required, having independent expenditure committees file a one-time report ‘whenever money is spent’ – similar to the ‘initial report’ – would be ‘less problematic,’ and allow Iowa to achieve its interest in helping the public make informed choices in the political marketplace. IRTL [Iowa Right to Life] does not explain how ongoing reporting impinges its associational rights. But it does show how it hinders its free speech rights. Iowa fails to advance a sufficiently important governmental interest that bears a substantial relation to the ongoing reporting requirements as applied to IRTL and other non-PAC groups. Thus, the first and third sentences of Iowa Code subsection 68A.404(3)(a)10 and the second sentence of Iowa Administrative Code rule 351-4.9(15)11 are unconstitutional as applied to IRTL and other groups whose major purpose is not nominating or electing candidates.”
     The appeals court otherwise upheld the constitutionality of the laws, which require reporting within 48 hours if a group gave more than $750 to a candidate.
     Narrow tailoring is not required on this point, according to the ruling.
     Likewise, “the 48-hour deadline makes disclosure ‘more effective’ because it is ‘rapid and informative,’ more quickly ‘provid[ing] the electorate with information’ about the sources of election-related spending,” Benton wrote. “With modern technology, the burden of completing the short, electronic form within two days of making a $750 expenditure is not onerous.”
     Judges Lavenski Smith and Michael Melloy concurred with Benton.

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