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Lawyer Bopp Keeps Battling Campaign Finance Regulation

Lawyer James Bopp Jr., the architect of the Citizens United case that led to a landmark Supreme Court decision, has cut a wide swath in his challenges to campaign finance regulation.

Scott Thomas, a former Democratic chairman of the Federal Election, said in a Bloomberg profile of Bopp that the Indiana-based lawyer’s cases have come close to gutting the 2002 law aimed at curbing the influence of well-heeled donors and outside groups. “We should now call the statute, ‘The Federal Election Campaign Act paid for and authorized by Jim Bopp,’” Thomas said.

According to data from the Campaign Legal Center, Bopp filed 21 out of a total 31 lawsuits challenging campaign finance rules that the Center has tracked. On Wednesday, he was to appear in a federal appeals court in Missouri, challenging a Minnesota law prohibiting corporations from giving money to candidates and political committees.

Bopp is a Republican National Committee member. It was with help from Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky that Bopp set up the James Madison Center to help cover his legal fees, according to Bloomberg. Read more

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Bopp Works to Open New Loophole

For James Bopp Jr.-watchers, there’s an update on the influential Indiana lawyer’s efforts to unravel campaign finance regulation.

A NPR article about him is headlined, “James Bopp: The ‘Country Lawyer’ Shaping Campaign Finance Law.” It highlights his effort to open a loophole in campaign finance law so that federal candidates can “solicit corporate money to finance organizations that promise to help them get elected,” and it discloses that Bopp is an admirer of the legal strategy behind the Supreme Court’s historic Brown v. Board of Education decision.

Reporter Peter Overby elaborates:

“Here’s how Bopp applies that strategy to attack the century-old ban on corporate contributions to candidates: He has four challenges in play around the country. He expects trial and appellate judges will start making conflicting rulings, and then the Supreme Court will have to act.” Read more

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About James Bopp, the 'Lone Wolf' Legal Strategist

James Bopp Jr., the conservative lawyer who was a successful architect of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling, is in the news again — on many fronts.

An intriguing profile of Bopp from National Journal gives an update on his crusading, as well as a concise summary of the clout he he has developed. It is entitled “The Lone Wolf: The most influential player in campaign finance law right now is a lawyer operating outside the GOP establishment.”

Here’s a telling description of the legal activist who doesn’t work or reside in Washington D.C.:

“Instead, Jim Bopp operates a law firm and a think tank out of Terre Haute, Ind., where for more than a decade he has developed the legal strategy that has systematically undermined campaign finance reform legislation, allowed for a massive influx of barely regulated money into the system and infuriated groups that press for more disclosure from candidates and their campaigns.”

As for the update, the article reports on Bopp’s trying to tear down barriers that bar outside groups from coordinating with the candidates they want to see elected to office. Read more

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Bopp Profile: 'Man Behind our Secret Elections'

James Bopp Jr.  is not widely known, yet he wields tremendous influence as “The Man Behind our Secret Elections,”  a new report by Common Cause and Public Campaign suggests.

Bopp “is one of the powerful and influential leaders of corporate America’s efforts to dismantle the post-Watergate campaign finance system,” begins the report about the Indiana-based litigator for deep-pocketed conservative interests.

He is familiar to readers of Gavel Grab, which has tracked his efforts to dismantle campaign finance laws at both the state and federal level; he originally launched the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission case that resulted in a landmark Supreme Court decision.

Litigator Bopp “has engineered the flow of tens of millions of dollars in corporate and trade association money — most of it from secret donors — into this year’s mid-term elections,” Common Cause adds in introducing the report.

“James Bopp is the point man for conservative wealthy interests whose goal is to dismantle the laws and regulations we have in place to stop the buying of Congress and other elected officials,” Common Cause President Bob Edgar said in a press release.

Both Common Cause and Public Campaign are partners of Justice at Stake. Their report concludes that Bopp’s objective is “to help elect extremist Republicans” through dismantling existing law and “opening the door to unlimited, anonymous corporate fundraising.”

You can learn more about Bopp and about varying responses to the Citizens United decision in a lengthy ABA Journal article entitled, “A Cautionary Tale of Corporate Political Spending Emerges in Minnesota.” And McClatchy Newspapers discusses the report in an article, “Meet the lawyer who argued money is speech, and won.”

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Bopp Lawsuit Challenges New IA Disclosure Law

Iowa Right to Life, Inc. has sued in federal court to challenge Iowa’s new law with disclosure requirements for corporate spending on political advertising.

Iowa was one of the first states to pass such a law in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling. Its new law mandates that corporations must disclose their political spending to state regulators, and they must identify themselves in the political advertising (see Gavel Grab).

The anti-abortion group “functions as a corporation,” according to a Radio Iowa report, and the lawsuit challenges requirements that the group faces under Iowa law.

The group can not make political ad without forming a political action committee, which involves “burdensome” requirements, according to a press statement by the James Madison Center for Free Speech and lawyer James Bopp, the lead attorney for Iowa Right to Life. Read more

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James Bopp: Lowering the Volume?

Is Indiana-based lawyer James Bopp Jr. backing away from his published remarks early this year about a grand plan to “dismantle” campaign finance law?

If an article from the Open Secrets blog of the Center for Responsive Politics is an indication, Bopp has at least lowered his volume. The Open Secrets post looks at efforts undertaken by campaign finance reform foes, since the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, to push harder with challenges to existing laws. Here are excerpts from the post:

“Bopp…told OpenSecrets Blog that he is not undertaking a major effort to overturn campaign finance law — he just represents many clients who frequently run up against laws that prevent them from speaking about public policy decisions.

” ‘It’s just naturally part of my practice that these controversies would arise because of the nature of the clients that I have,’ he said.”

In addition, Bopp told the publication, “We always seek to apply the current state of the law to any challenges of campaign finance law that we make.”

Readers may compare those remarks with what he told the New York Times in January (see Gavel Grab), shortly after Bopp won what some called “his biggest victory” with the Citizens United decision:

“We had a 10-year plan to take all this down…And if we do it right, I think we can pretty well dismantle the entire regulatory regime that is called campaign finance law.”

Scholar Richard Hasen, who writes the Election Law blog, told Open Secrets regarding the opponents of campaign finance laws:

“There’s no mystery to what’s going on.

“These groups have seen Citizens United as an opening to challenge a variety of campaign finance laws to try to push the courts in a deregulatory direction.”

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Bopp Lawsuit Challenges HI Campaign Finance Law

No doubt that activist lawyer James Bopp Jr. of Terre Haute, Indiana gets around. One of the latest lawsuits that he’s filed challenges a new campaign finance law in Hawaii.

According to a Honolulu Star Advertiser article, the lawsuit in federal court seeks to throw out a ban on political contributions by state and county contractors. It also questions state law that sets reporting requirements for political advertising; attribution and disclaimer provisions for political advertising; a $1,000 ceiling on donations by political action committees; and state law guiding corporations to register as PACs before they make a political donation.

While Bopp contends that the laws at issue violate Free Speech protections, he has numerous critics. Bopp and his team “seem eager to let moneyed interests out-shout the voices of ordinary Americans,” said Barbara Polk, legislative chairwoman of Americans for Democratic Action/Hawaii. Some critics contend Bopp is trying to dismantle campaign finance regulations around the country.

To keep up with lawsuits that Bopp is handling in numerous states, check out Gavel Grab.

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Bopp Expands Legal Team in Far-Reaching Effort

Indiana-based lawyer James Bopp Jr.,  working nationwide to dismantle campaign finance regulation, is familiar to Gavel Grab readers (see earlier posts here.) Now an update on Bopp from the Washington Post provides details about his reach.

The lawyer who played a central role in framing the case that led to the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision has increased his team of lawyers to 15 and now has 27 cases in play in courts around the country.

Citizens United is going to have a very substantial impact,” Bopp told the Post. “Obviously, we’re encouraged that we’re on the road back to restoring the First Amendment application to campaign finance.”

Bopp is vice chairman of the Republican National Committee. His legal team is keeping tabs on efforts by states and Congress to respond to Citizens United, which allows corporations and labor unions to spend freely on independent advertising to support or oppose political candidates. Read more

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Bopp Discusses Citizens United Fallout

Building on the success of the Citizens United case, what will critics of campaign finance regulation  target next?

Lawyer James Bopp Jr., a major player (see Gavel Grab) in framing the litigation that led to last month’s landmark Citizens United decision, seems to give some hints in a commentary for AOL News.

Citizens United “is likely to affect the constitutionality of other campaign finance laws,” Bopp writes, and he lists these areas: federal laws that “that severely restrict contributions to national party committees;”  laws that restrict corporations and labor unions from contributing directly to federal candidates; and certain disclosure laws. Bopp refers specifically to those requiring disclosure of donations to candidates of as little as $25.

“While disclosure of contributions to candidates is generally a good thing,” Bopp elaborates, “laws requiring disclosure of such low amounts doesn’t provide any useful information, and the courts must protect all contributors from harassment and intimidation.”

That Bopp offers even partial acceptance of any campaign disclosure laws is a bit of a surprise, and perhaps may be taken with a grain of salt. Following the Citizens United ruling, he told The New York Times:

“We had a 10-year plan to take all this down…And if we do it right, I think we can pretty well dismantle the entire regulatory regime that is called campaign finance law.”

The fallout from Citizens United brings two commentaries on how to fortify campaign finance laws in the wake of the ruling. Former Republican Sen. Warren Rudman of New Hampshire favors public financing of congressional elections in a Washington Post column headlined, “Republicans losing their way on campaign finance reform.” The New York Times, in an editorial, supports legislation that would furnish “legitimate antidotes” to Citizens United, which the Times says “amounted to constitutional sanction to unlimited corporate and union campaign contributions.” Read more

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Bopp: Goal is Dismantling Campaign Finance Law

Although he won “his biggest victory” when the Supreme Court issued Citizens United, Indiana-based lawyer James Bopp Jr. (photo at right) by no means considers his work finished.

That’s according to an illuminating New York Times profile of Bopp, headlined, “A Quest to End Spending Rules for Campaigns.” Bopp told the Times:

“We had a 10-year plan to take all this down…And if we do it right, I think we can pretty well dismantle the entire regulatory regime that is called campaign finance law.”

The case on behalf of Citizens United, a conservative group, “was really Jim’s brainchild,” election law scholar Richard Hasen said, alluding to how Bopp framed it to test laws restraining corporate political spending and to get a desired result from the court. “He is a litigation machine.”

Bopp handled the case on its way to the high court, but did not argue the case there. That job was handled by former U.S. solicitor general Theodore Olson (photo at left).  The National Law Journal offers a slightly different take on the winningest lawyer in the case, writing about Olson:

“By bringing on Olson in place of veteran campaign-regulation foe James Bopp Jr., [Citizens United] aggressively ramped up the constitutional issues, making it much more likely the high court would make history in its ruling on the case.”

No matter how the credit is handed out, Bopp has decided his next step, according to the Times, will be rolling back disclosure rules. In Citizens United, the high court declared that corporations could not be barred from spending on election campaigns, while upholding disclosure rules for political expenditures. To learn more, check out Gavel Grab.

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