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Federal Court Begins Debate Over Campaign Finance "Reform" Law

Sunday, December 8, 2002

On Wednesday and Thursday, December 4 and 5, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia heard oral arguments over the constitutionality of the campaign finance "reform" law enacted earlier this year. The law went into effect on November 6, the day after Election Day 2002. Several attorneys representing a coalition of opponents to the law, including NRA, argued the regulations infringe on the rights of individuals to freely associate with political groups, and limits the right to free political speech. Opponents also charged the law restricts a state’s ability to set its own guidelines for conducting elections.

NRA’s lead attorney, Charles Cooper, stated, "If the NRA’s voice is loud and reverberates through the halls of Congress, it is precisely because the organization is the collective voice of millions of Americans speaking in unison." Quoting the late Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, Cooper said, "That ‘is not a corruption of the democratic process; it is the democratic political process.’"

Floyd Abrams, a noted First Amendment lawyer and one of the attorneys arguing against the law, pointed out the restrictions on certain advertisements 30 days prior to a Primary Election and 60 days prior to a General Election represented a clear infringement on the right to free speech. After showing examples of commercials that would be prohibited because they gave a negative portrayal of lawmakers, Abrams asked, "When did that become unprotected under the First Amendment? That is precisely the kind of speech the First Amendment protects."

NRA will continue to work with the diverse coalition of opponents to campaign finance "reform" to ensure the right to free speech of the Association and its 4 million members is protected. The court is expected to hand down its ruling early next year, which will be immediately followed by an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, regardless of what the lower court decides. We will continue to post any significant developments on this front.

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Established in 1975, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) is the "lobbying" arm of the National Rifle Association of America. ILA is responsible for preserving the right of all law-abiding individuals in the legislative, political, and legal arenas, to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.