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Supreme Court Won’t Hear Election Case

The Supreme Court on Monday declined to take up a case challenging a state law that requires outside groups to register when they support or oppose political candidates in broadcast advertisements.

The case, Voters Education Committee v. Washington State Public Disclosure Commission, involved a 527 group that aired TV ads in 2004 suggesting that the state’s insurance commissioner, who was running for attorney general, had too-cozy connections with the insurance industry.

The Washington State Public Disclosure Commission, which regulates electoral activity in the state, later ruled that the ad “expressly advocated” the commissioner’s defeat and, as such, the group should register with the state — despite it not using “magic words” in its advertisements.

“Washington’s statutory definition of ‘political committee’ made no mention of express advocacy, instead referring to spending ‘in support of, or opposition to, any candidate,” Jan Baran, the group’s lawyer, argued in court documents.

Baran said in an interview that Washington’s law and those elsewhere are “unconstitutionally vague and overly broad in what they attempt to regulate.”

“Maybe they’ll go after Roll Call or some other group because you support of oppose a candidate?” Baran asked.

Despite Monday’s high court decision, Baran predicted that the matter is far from settled. Baran and other court-watchers cite a bumper crop of similar cases making their way through the court system, including a case involving Speechnow.org.

The group, headed up by Club for Growth Executive Director David Keating, is attempting to carve out a contribution-limit exemption for outside political groups. The group is asking that the cap, which is $5,000, be lifted, so long as it reports ad buys and other independent expenditures to the Federal Election Commission.

“Clients ask me, what the odds are of the Supreme Court taking a case [and] I basically say it’s one out of a 100,” Baran said. “It’ll be decided in another case on another day … It’s a matter of time.”

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