Court Gets Some Kudos For Campaign Ad Call


The D.C. Circuit Court’s decision that corporations and unions may buy TV and radio ads in the run up to primary and general elections that mention candidates drew good reviews from the ad industry and a free-market think tank last week.

Adonis Hoffman, senior VP or the American Association of Advertising Agencies, saw the court’s summary judgment against the Federal Election Commission and for Wisconsin Right To Life as an appropriate recognition of protections for political speech.

"In granting summary judgment," he told B&C, "it seems to me the court was mindful of the plain meaning of the First Amendment which, at its core, protects political speech. Issue ads, even if they mention a candidate, are nothing, if not purely political expressions."

The court concluded that if an ad was at its core promoting or opposing an issue rather than a candidate, it could mention a candidate without trigger prohibitions on using corporate or union treasury finds for such ads.

The Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCA) had said that ads that cited a legally qualified candidate were de facto electioneering communications and would be disallowed under the prohibition.

Randolph May of the Potomac, Md.-based Free State Foundation, called the ruling "a welcome blow for the First Amendment and against the speech regulation regime established by McCain-Feingold (BCRA backers John McCain [R-Ariz.] and Russ Feingold [D-Wis.]).