(CN) - Unity08, "a kind of would-be post-partisan political party," isn't subject to regulation as a political committee, the D.C. Circuit ruled, because the group doesn't endorse a "clearly identified candidate."
The group planned on setting up an online nominating process to choose a mixed ticket of one Republican and one Democrat for the 2008 presidential election.
It asked the Federal Election Commission it if was required to register as a political committee. Unity08 argued that it isn't a political committee, because it doesn't seek to influence the election of "a particular identified candidate" (original emphasis).
The commission issued an advisory opinion rejecting Unity08's suggestion, saying the group was an organization whose main purpose was to nominate or elect a candidate - the very definition of a political committee.
Unity08 challenged the advisory opinion in federal court, and a judge ruled for the election commission.
The federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., said the case was not moot or unreviewable, as the commission argued. It then sided with Unity08 on the merits.
A group that selects, or "drafts," candidates, but has never supported specific candidates in the past and has no plans to support the chosen candidates, can avoid regulation as a political committee, the court ruled. It cited its own precedent in FEC v. Machinists Non-Partisan Political League, which held that only groups that supported or opposed a "clearly identified candidate" can be regulated as political committees.
"Absent any compelling ground for distinguishing Machinists, we find that Unity08 is not subject to regulation as a political committee unless and until it selects a 'clearly identified' candidate," Senior Judge Stephen Williams concluded.
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