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Congressional Redistricting and the Voting Rights Act: A Legal Overview

Description: This report provides a legal overview of two key provisions of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) affecting congressional redistricting — Sections 2 and 5 — and selected accompanying Supreme Court case law. It examines a pending Supreme Court case, Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder, challenging the constitutionality of Section 5. It also provides a summary of selected legislation in the 112th and 113th Congresses that would establish additional requirements and standards for congressional redistricting.
Date: April 2, 2013
Creator: Whitaker, L. Paige
Partner: UNT Libraries Government Documents Department
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Congressional Redistricting and the Voting Rights Act: A Legal Overview

Description: This report provides a legal overview of Section 2 of the VRA, a key provision affecting congressional redistricting, and selected Supreme Court case law. It discusses Sections 4 and 5, and the recent Supreme Court decision holding Section 4(b) unconstitutional, Shelby County v. Holder. Section 4 contained a coverage formula that identified states and jurisdictions that were required to gain federal approval or "preclearance" to proposed redistricting plans under Section 5. The report also provides an overview of selected legislation in the 112th and 113th Congresses that would establish additional requirements and standards for congressional redistricting.
Date: February 24, 2014
Creator: Whitaker, L. Paige
Partner: UNT Libraries Government Documents Department
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The Constitutionality of Campaign Finance Regulation: Buckley v. Valeo and Its Supreme Court Progeny

Description: This report first discusses the key holdings enunciated by the Supreme Court in Buckley, including those upholding reasonable contribution limits, striking down expenditure limits, upholding disclosure reporting requirements, and upholding the system of voluntary presidential election expenditure limitations linked with public financing. It then examines the Court's extension of Buckley in several subsequent cases, evaluating them in various regulatory contexts: contribution limits, expenditure limits, disclosure requirements, and political party soft money and electioneering communication restrictions.
Date: November 18, 2008
Creator: Whitaker, L. Paige
Partner: UNT Libraries Government Documents Department
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Campaign Finance Law: The Supreme Court Upholds Key Provisions of BCRA in McConnell v. FEC

Description: This report discusses the Supreme Court's decision in McConnell v. FEC. The court upheld against facial constitutional challenges key portions of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (BCRA), (P.L. 107-155, commonly known as the McCain-Feingold or Shays-Meehan campaign finance reform law).
Date: December 19, 2003
Creator: Whitaker, L. Paige
Partner: UNT Libraries Government Documents Department
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Campaign Finance: Constitutionality of Limits on Contributions and Expenditures

Description: The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution provides that "Congress shall make no law.... abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press." This provision limits the government's power to restrict speech. In 1976, the Supreme Court issued its landmark campaign finance ruling in Buckley v. Valeo. In Buckley, the Court determined that limits on campaign contributions, which involve giving money to an entity, and expenditures, which involve spending money directly for electoral advocacy, implicate rights of political expression and association under the First Amendment. In view of the fact that contributions and expenditures facilitate speech, the Court concluded, they cannot be regulated as mere conduct. This report contains information on allowed contributions and expenditures.
Date: September 4, 2014
Creator: Whitaker, L. Paige
Partner: UNT Libraries Government Documents Department
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The Constitutionality of Regulating Political Advertisements: An Analysis of Federal Election Commission v. Wisconsin Right to Life, Inc.

Description: On June 25, 2007, in a 5-4 decision, the Sumpreme Court in Wisconsin Right to Life, Inc. v. FEC affirmed a lower court ruling, finding that a provision of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, prohibiting corporate or labor union treasury funds from being spent on advertisements broadcast within 30 days of a primary or 60 days of a general election, was unconstitutional as applied to ads that Wisconsin Right to Life, Inc. sought to run. In later decisions, it was ruled that advertisements that may reasonably be interpreted as something other than as an appeal to vote for or against a specific candidate are not the functional equivalent of express advocacy and, therefore, cannot be regulated. This report examines and analyzes these decisions and how they effect campaign law.
Date: July 5, 2007
Creator: Whitaker, L. Paige
Partner: UNT Libraries Government Documents Department
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Recent State Election Law Challenges: In Brief

Description: This report begins by setting forth key constitutional provisions relevant to recent state election law challenges. Next, it discusses federal statutory provisions contained in the Voting Rights Act and the National Voter Registration Act and briefly examines pertinent Supreme Court precedent. Then, based on that legal framework, it provides an overview of several recent challenges to state election laws in Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, and Texas that resulted in major decisions by the various federal courts of appeals as illustrative examples of the types of challenges that have been playing out in the courts. Finally, the report discusses some potential implications of these challenges.
Date: November 2, 2016
Creator: Whitaker, L. Paige
Partner: UNT Libraries Government Documents Department
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Campaign Finance Law and the Constitutionality of the "Millionaire's Amendment": An Analysis of Davis v. Federal Election Commission

Description: In a 5-to-4 decision, the Supreme Court struck down a provision of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (BCRA), also known as the McCain-Feingold law, establishing increased contribution limits for congressional candidates whose opponents significantly self-finance their campaigns. This provision is frequently referred to as the "Millionaire's Amendment." The Court found that the burden imposed on expenditures of personal funds is not justified by the compelling governmental interest of lessening corruption or the appearance of corruption and, therefore, held that the law is unconstitutional in violation of the First Amendment.
Date: July 17, 2008
Creator: Whitaker, L. Paige
Partner: UNT Libraries Government Documents Department
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Campaign Finance Reform: A Legal Analysis of Issue and Express Advocacy

Description: Issue advocacy communications have become increasingly popular in recent federal election cycles. These advertisements are often interpreted to favor or disfavor certain candidates, while also serving to inform the public about a policy issue. However, unlike communications that expressly advocate the election or defeat of a clearly identified candidate, the Supreme Court has determined that issue ads are constitutionally protected First Amendment speech that cannot be regulated in any manner. According to most lower court rulings, only speech containing express words of advocacy of election or defeat, also known as "express advocacy" or "magic words" can be regulated as election-related communications and therefore be subject to the requirements of the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA). Upcoming legislation would further investigate and elaborate upon this issue.
Date: July 10, 2001
Creator: Whitaker, L. Paige
Partner: UNT Libraries Government Documents Department
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Campaign Finance: Constitutional and Legal Issues of Soft Money

Description: Soft money is a major issue in the campaign finance reform debate because these generally unregulated funds are perceived as resulting from a loophole in the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA). Generally, soft money is funds that are raised and spent according to applicable state laws, which FECA prohibits from being spent directly on federal elections, but that may have an indirect influence on federal elections. This Issue Brief discusses three major types of soft money: political party soft money, corporate and labor union soft money, and soft money used for issue advocacy communications.
Date: February 4, 2000
Creator: Whitaker, L. Paige
Partner: UNT Libraries Government Documents Department
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Campaign Finance: Constitutional and Legal Issues of Soft Money

Description: As in the 105th Congress, many of the 106th Congress bills focus on political party soft money--subjecting contributions, expenditures, or transfers of national political parties to the limitations, prohibitions and reporting requirements of the FECA. Other bills would restrict corporate and labor union soft money. Another major reform proposal would subject certain types of advocacy communications to FECA regulation, either fully or just insofar as disclosure requirements.
Date: December 11, 2000
Creator: Whitaker, L. Paige
Partner: UNT Libraries Government Documents Department
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Campaign Finance Reform: A Legal Analysis of Issue and Express Advocacy

Description: Issue advocacy communications have become increasingly popular in recent federal election cycles. These advertisements are often interpreted to favor or disfavor certain candidates, while also serving to inform the public about a policy issue. However, unlike communications that expressly advocate the election or defeat of a clearly identified candidate, the Supreme Court has determined that issue ads are constitutionally protected First Amendment speech that cannot be regulated in any manner. According to most lower court rulings, only speech containing express words of advocacy of election or defeat, also known as "express advocacy" or "magic words" can be regulated and therefore be subject to the requirements of the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA). Unlike express advocacy communications, therefore, issue ads may be paid for with funds unregulated by federal law, i.e., soft money.
Date: March 12, 2001
Creator: Whitaker, L. Paige
Partner: UNT Libraries Government Documents Department
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Campaign Finance: Constitutional and Legal Issues of Soft Money

Description: Soft money is a major issue in the campaign finance reform debate because these generally unregulated funds are perceived as resulting from a loophole in the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA). Generally, soft money is funds that are raised and spent according to applicable state laws, which FECA prohibits from being spent directly on federal elections, but that may have an indirect influence on federal elections. This Issue Brief discusses three major types of soft money: political party soft money, corporate and labor union soft money, and soft money used for issue advocacy communications.
Date: September 28, 2001
Creator: Whitaker, L. Paige
Partner: UNT Libraries Government Documents Department
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Campaign Finance Reform: Constitutional Issues Raised by Disclosure Requirements

Description: Campaign finance reform legislation often contains provisions that would impose additional reporting and disclosure requirements under the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA). For example, S. 27 (McCain/Feingold), would require disclosure of disbursements of expenditures over $10,000 for “electioneering communications,” which are defined to include broadcast ads that “refer” to federal office candidates, with identification of donors of $500 or more. S. 22 (Hagel/Landrieu) would increase and expedite current disclosure requirements under FECA. H.R. 380 (Shays/Meehan) would lower the current FECA threshold for contribution reporting from $200 to $50 and impose reporting requirements for soft money disbursements by persons other than political parties. This report will discuss some of the constitutional issues relating to these and other such disclosure requirements.
Date: March 20, 2001
Creator: Whitaker, L. Paige
Partner: UNT Libraries Government Documents Department
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Campaign Finance Reform and Incentives to Voluntarily Limit Candidate Spending From Personal Funds: Constitutional Issues Raised by Public Subsidies and Variable Contribution Limits

Description: The Supreme Court in Buckley v. Valeo ruled that spending limits, including the amount a candidate can spend on his or her own campaign from personal funds (also known as personal fund expenditure limits) are unconstitutional. The Court did, however, uphold a system of spending limits, on the condition that they are voluntarily accepted in exchange for some form of public financing. As a result of these Court rulings, the concept of various incentives toward voluntary compliance with a personal funds expenditure limit has been developed. This report discusses some constitutional issues raised by two such incentives: public subsidies and variable contribution limits.
Date: March 22, 2001
Creator: Whitaker, L. Paige
Partner: UNT Libraries Government Documents Department
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Campaign Finance Reform: A Legal Analysis of Issue and Express Advocacy

Description: Issue advocacy communications have become increasingly popular over the federal election cycles. Often these advertisements could be interpreted to favor or disfavor certain candidates, while also serving to inform the public about a policy issue. However, unlike communications that expressly advocate the election or defeat of a clearly identified candidate, the Supreme Court has ruled that issue ads are constitutionally protected First Amendment speech and cannot be regulated in any manner. According to most lower court rulings, only speech containing express words of advocacy of election or defeat, also known as “express advocacy” or “magic words” can be regulated as election-related communications and therefore be subject to the requirements of the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA). Unlike express advocacy communications, therefore, issue ads may be paid for with funds unregulated by federal law, i.e., soft money
Date: March 15, 2002
Creator: Whitaker, L. Paige
Partner: UNT Libraries Government Documents Department
open access

Campaign Finance: Constitutional and Legal Issues of Soft Money

Description: Soft money is a major issue in the campaign finance reform debate because these generally unregulated funds are perceived as resulting from a loophole in the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA). Generally, soft money is funds that are raised and spent according to applicable state laws, which FECA prohibits from being spent directly on federal elections, but that may have an indirect influence on federal elections. This Issue Brief discusses three major types of soft money: political party soft money, corporate and labor union soft money, and soft money used for issue advocacy communications.
Date: January 25, 2002
Creator: Whitaker, L. Paige
Partner: UNT Libraries Government Documents Department
open access

Campaign Finance: Constitutional and Legal Issues of Soft Money

Description: Soft money is a major issue in the campaign finance reform debate because such funds are generally unregulated and perceived as resulting from a loophole in the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA). More specifically, soft money is considered to be funds that are raised and spent according to applicable state laws, which FECA prohibits from being spent directly on federal elections, but that may have an indirect influence on federal elections. This Issue Brief discusses three major types of soft money: political party soft money, corporate and labor union soft money, and soft money used for issue advocacy communications.
Date: March 14, 2002
Creator: Whitaker, L. Paige
Partner: UNT Libraries Government Documents Department
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