In the evolution of campaign finance, cases have come up the chain of courts and found themselves in the lap of the Supreme Court of the United States. Speechnow.org was no exception to this lengthy journey. Speechnow.org, a nonprofit organization that supported candidates who stood firm with the First Amendment, was told to operate as a political committee. Under this classification, individuals were subject to obey collecting and spending limitations. These restrictions made it very hard for independent groups to be effective, so in 2008 David Keating, president of Speechnow.org went to court against the FEC.
After the 2010 D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling, Speechnow.org’s was to have free reign on donations, but would still need to register as a political committee. Keating was not happen with the appellate court’s decision. He knew that his case was Supreme Court worthy due to Buckley v. Valeo and Citizens United v FEC being precedent. With those cases setting an example for Speechnow.org, Keating decided to try and take this case to the Supreme Court. This case opened discussion on if it is constitutional to limit contributions to organizations that were spending their money on political independent expenditures. Speechnow.org also wished to address donor disclosure guidelines and FEC reporting requirements.
Speechnow.org’s most leading argument was in the fact that they did not give donations to political candidates or political parties, a major component that is thought of be traditional standards to be labeled as a political committee. This argument was flawed, however, because the FEC defines a political committee as “any committee, club, association, or other group of persons that receives contributions of more than $1,000 in a year or makes expenditures of more than $1,000 in a year.” CITATION By definition, Speechnow.org did fall under the political committee title. However, Speechnow.org still stood firm by the need to hear a different ruling, because they were not doing the same type of business as conventional political committees.
The Supreme Court ruling in the Citizens United case truly set the standard on eliminating the limits of independent expenditures for nonprofit organizations. Speechnow.org tried to use this ruling as argument ammunition. According to the case opinion, “The FEC argues that the analysis of Citizens United does not apply because that case involved an expenditure limit while this case involves a contribution limit.” CITATION Although these two go hand-in-hand, the FEC did bring to surface a crucial hole in Speechnow.org’s argument. Speechnow.org was not trying to get a fair ruling on independent expenditures. It seemed that Speechnow.org was losing site of their main goal and instead throwing out whatever they believed would help with their case. Whether it was extremely relevant to Speechnow.org’s case, or not, the Citizens United ruling opened the door to challenging the courts in campaign finance...