Wednesday, April 23, 2008

What Should a Voter Know? (Redux)

Earlier this month I blogged about a Virginia group seeking an injunction in federal court to prevent the enforcement of some of West Virginia's campaign finance laws. As I predicted, they were successful, at least in part:

U.S. District Judge David A. Faber prohibited state officials from enforcing election laws that would have required the Center for Individual Freedom, a Virginia-based organization, to disclose its funding sources on certain kinds of political ads.

'The court has reviewed those provisions of West Virginia law and determined that they appear to be vague,' Faber wrote. 'Because of this vagueness, it is fair to say that the Center has been discouraged from engaging in speech safeguarded by the First Amendment.'

His decision left intact rules that prohibit anonymous 'express advocacy' advertising on television and radio - that is, ads that directly encourage voters to support or oppose a particular candidate. However, the injunction allows the center to run issue-driven ads without disclosing its funding.
It will be interesting to see what kind of ads result, given that "issue" ads don't seem to have as much application in judicial elections (the state Supreme Court election is the group's target) as they do in expressly political elections. After all, judicial candidates can't promise to rule a certain way on a certain issue, so how do you tie a supposedly generic issue ad to a specific candidate?

2 comments:

RedZeppelin said...

Are you kidding? Judicial campaigns are full of stances on issues. They simply use code words instead of coming right out and announcing their position.

For example, "Pro-family" = "I hate teh gheys!", announcing to voters that the candidate will never vote to grant any gay rights or privileges.

JDB said...

Well, sort of. A legislator/governor/pres can come out and say "I will make X" a priority and such. Judicial candidates, at best, can use vague codewords, like you said, but those only get you so far. It's not like a "pro family" judge can file the suit, argue the case, and decide it.