The Federal Election Commission has obtained permission from the U.S. Supreme Court to delay its response in Free Speech v FEC, 13-772. The FEC’s response was originally due February 3, but now it is due March 5.
The issue is whether a group of 3 Wyoming residents, who formed a group called “Free Speech” in order to run ads that comment on various federal political candidates and issues, must register as a Political Committee (“PAC”). The individuals do not want to form a PAC because a PAC must file periodic reports of total operating expenses, cash on hand, receipts and disbursements (except for most transactions below $200). Also, a PAC must have a treasurer and a separate bank account, and must also disclose in regularly scheduled reports the date and amount of each independent expenditure made involving a candidate for federal office. Free Speech says it is willing to disclose information about any independent expenditures and electioneering communications it makes, but the reporting requirements for a PAC are unnecessarily burdensome.
Free Speech argues that the rules on whether a group is a PAC or not are too vague. In order to decide whether a group is a PAC, a determination must be made about whether its major purpose is to influence federal elections; what type of speech qualifies as “express advocacy”; and what type of speech involves “solicitations for contributions.” Free Speech says that even the FEC Commissioners cannot agree on the these terms, and that it is necessary for groups to read thousands of pages of regulations and FEC rulings to understand them. The lower courts refused to give Free Speech any injunctive relief.