August 17, 2015
Contact: James Bopp, Jr.Phone 812/232-2434; Cell 812/243-0825; Fax 812/235-3685; [email protected]
Hawaii's Law Making Multimillion Dollar Electrical Construction Company a PAC is Appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court
Hawaii law – rather than requiring constitutional, simple, one time event driven reports – requires a large family owned business to be a state PAC when it spends more than $1000 on newspaper issue ads.
A-1 A-Lectrician, Inc., a large, for-profit electrical construction company in Honolulu, filed a appeal in the U.S. Supreme Court challenging the law Friday.
Because A-1 engages in advocacy about issues via newspaper ads, Hawaii law requires A-1 to be a political committee. As such, A-1 must bear numerous organizational and administrative burdens – registration, recordkeeping, and extensive, ongoing reporting – which the Supreme Court's 2010 decision in Citizens United v. FEC held are “onerous,” even though its political spending is less that .2% of its total revenue a year.
However, the 1976 Supreme Court's decision in Buckley v. Valeo held that an organization may not be required to be a PAC unless it is under the control of a candidate or has the major purpose of nominating or electing candidates - which A-1 clearly does not.
In addition, regardless of whether A-1 is treated like a PAC, A-1 must comply with Hawaii's burdensome disclaimer law for what Hawaii calls “advertisements.” The advertisement and disclaimer law reach beyond speech expressly advocating the election or defeat of a clearly identified candidate and beyond federal-type electioneering communications, both of which the Supreme Court has held government may regulate with attributions, disclaimers, and non-political-committee, i.e., simple, one-time event-driven reports. Hawaii law however reaches genuine-issue speech, including A-1's newspaper ads.
The San Francisco-based Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the challenged laws, saying that, contrary to Citizens United and Buckley, being a PAC in Hawaii is not onerous and that the major-purpose test does not apply to state law. This decision agrees with some other circuits and disagrees with other.
“Hawaii law respects neither Citizens United nor Buckley,” said James Bopp, Jr., lead counsel for A-1. “State law regulating political speech is not exempt from the US Constitution, but now several federal courts of appeal have said it is. It is time for the Supreme Court to act or the promise of Citizens United that groups may engage in political speech will be meaningless.”
A-1 on Friday filed a petition for certiorari asking the Supreme Court to take up this case. The petition is at
James Bopp, Jr. Is General Counsel for the James Madison Center for Free Speech, www.jamesmadisoncenter.org, and has a national constitutional law practice with The Bopp Law Firm, www.bopplaw.com.
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