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Signs of Life From Judges Reviewing CFR Case

The three-judge panel hearing McConnell v. FEC is offering signals that it may be close to handing down its long-awaited decision in the landmark campaign finance case.

This week, the U.S. District Court established a special listserv through which interested parties will receive early notification via e-mail that a decision has been handed down.

The campaign finance community appeared invigorated by the news, and some campaign finance experts privately speculated that the ruling could come down as early as today or Friday.

Subscribers to the listserv will also receive an electronic copy of the actual decision, which some have speculated could be several hundred, if not more than a thousand, pages long.

While the decision is being anxiously awaited, it is only the first stage in legal wrangling over the case, which is guaranteed an expedited review by the Supreme Court.

In another development, the three-judge panel issued a short opinion this week allowing a defense expert to file a supplemental report.

The opinion stated that Jonathan Krasno, one of the Brennan Center for Justice’s researchers who helped compile the “Buying Time” report on issue advertising in the 1998 and 2000 campaigns, may file a supplemental report defending his research.

The study had been a central point of dispute between litigants in the case, and the court noted in its decision Tuesday that “both sides in this litigation devoted a considerable amount of effort into criticizing and bolstering” the study.

The study examined television ads run during the 1998 and 2000 campaign cycles, but the statistics in the study were a hot topic of debate.

Opponents of the new campaign finance law used expert testimony of Dr. James L. Gibson to refute the studies’ findings.

However, the court stated this week that such arguments were “made less useful” because Gibson could not determine exactly which data was relied upon by the “Buying Time” authors.

In their ruling this week, the judges wrote that given the confusion over the validity of the studies and their significance in this case, “it is essential that the Court have as complete a record as possible for consideration of these disputed documents.”

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