WISCONSIN RIGHT TO LIFE v. FEDERAL ELECTION COMMISSION (FEC)

Print this Page
Case Basics
Docket No. 
04-1581
Appellee 
Federal Election Commission
Appellant 
Wisconsin Right to Life, Inc.
Advocates
(argued the cause for Respondent)
(argued the cause for Petitioner)
Tags
Term:
Facts of the Case 

The Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (BCRA) prohibits corporate funds from being used for certain political advertisements in the 60-day period prior to an election. Wisconsin Right to Life (WRTL) ran a series of television advertisements encouraging viewers to contact two U.S. Senators and tell them to oppose judicial filibusters. WRTL anticipated that the ads would probably run afoul of BCRA and sued the Federal Election Commission (FEC), seeking an order barring the FEC from enforcing BCRA against the ads. WRTL's suit alleged that BCRA is unconstitutional as it applies to the ads, which it claimed are "grassroots lobbying advertisements" unrelated to electoral campaigning. The FEC argued that the Supreme Court in McConnell v. Federal Election Commission (2003) had ruled out all "as-applied" challenges to BCRA. The U.S. District Court for D.C. agreed and denied WRTL's motion.

Question 

Does McConnell v. Federal Election Commission (2003) allow "as-applied" challenges to the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act's prohibitions on corporate funding of political advertisements?

Conclusion 
Decision: 9 votes for Wisconsin Right to Life, 0 vote(s) against
Legal provision: 2 U.S.C. 441

Yes. The unanimous per curiam opinion reversed the District Court's judgment, allowing WRTL to proceed with its as-applied challenge. The opinion explained that the District Court had misinterpreted a footnote in McConnell that seemed to foreclose such challenges. The Justices instructed the lower court to consider the larger question of whether the BCRA is constitutional as applied to WRTL's ads.

Cite this Page
WISCONSIN RIGHT TO LIFE v. FEDERAL ELECTION COMMISSION (FEC). The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 24 September 2014. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/2000-2009/2005/2005_04_1581>.
WISCONSIN RIGHT TO LIFE v. FEDERAL ELECTION COMMISSION (FEC), The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/cases/2000-2009/2005/2005_04_1581 (last visited September 24, 2014).
"WISCONSIN RIGHT TO LIFE v. FEDERAL ELECTION COMMISSION (FEC)," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed September 24, 2014, http://www.oyez.org/cases/2000-2009/2005/2005_04_1581.