The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Congressman Ted Lieu, Lead Plaintiff in Lieu v. FEC Discusses Lawsuit Seeking to End Super PAC Spending in U.S. Elections

Federal lawmakers are petitioning the Supreme Court to review a lawsuit challenging SpeechNow v. Federal Election Commission, the 2010 appeals court ruling that created super PACs.


Free Speech For People (FSFP) hosted a virtual briefing on Wednesday to discuss recent developments in the lawsuit Lieu v. Federal Election Commission that challenges the 2010 federal appeals court ruling in SpeechNow v. FEC, which gave rise to the current explosion of super PAC spending in US elections. Speakers included Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA-33), Supreme Court specialist Professor Jeffrey Fisher (Stanford Law School), Free Speech For People's President John Bonifaz, and Free Speech For People's Legal Director Ron Fein.

"The Supreme Court actually didn't decide the issue of whether you can have unlimited contributions through super PACs, which has really caused a flood of dark money into our political campaign system. It was a lower court decision. We believe that decision was decided wrongly. We're suing to get that decision overturned," said Rep. Ted Lieu.

"The importance of this case is so glaring, and for anybody who lives in this country and cares about our democracy, you want to have the campaign finance regulations that Congress has enacted be properly enforced. And, we've now lived for too long already where that has not been happening and the effects are very harmful...This is the right case at the right time to take up [to the Supreme Court]," said Professor Fisher, lead counsel for the Supreme Court phase of the litigation.

"A victory in the Supreme Court, by eliminating super PACs, would dramatically alter the way our elections are financed going forward from how they have been financed for the past ten years. But a victory would also upend the widely accepted notion that our current corrupt system is locked in and unchangeable," said John Bonifaz.

The national public interest organization Free Speech For People, which launched the case as lead counsel for the plaintiffs, is serving as co-counsel in the petition for Supreme Court review, alongside a bipartisan group of distinguished legal scholars which includes Professor Fisher (Stanford Law School; lead counsel for the Supreme Court phase of the litigation), Professor Laurence Tribe (Harvard Law School); Professor Albert Alschuler (Univ. of Chicago Law School, emeritus); and Professor Richard Painter (Univ. of Minnesota Law School, and former chief ethics counsel to President George W. Bush). The legal team also includes the law firm of Foster Garvey.

Lieu v. Federal Election Commission was filed in federal district court in Washington, D.C. in November 2016, on behalf of a bipartisan coalition of Members of Congress and 2016 congressional candidates led by Representative Ted Lieu (D-CA-33), Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and the late Representative Walter Jones (R-NC-3). The lawsuit seeks the reversal of the March 2010 federal appeals court ruling in v. FEC. In that decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled that the federal law limiting contributions to political action committees to $5,000 per person per year could not, under the Constitution, apply to political committees that promised to make only "independent" expenditures, thus unleashing super PACs.

Watch the entire virtual briefing here.

Read more about Lieu v. Federal Election Commission here.

Free Speech For People is a national non-partisan non-profit organization founded on the day of the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in Citizens United v. FEC that works to defend our democracy and our Constitution.