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Media Alerts - Texans for Free Enterprise v. Texas Ethics Commission - Fifth Circuit
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October 17, 2013
  Texans for Free Enterprise v. Texas Ethics Commission - Fifth Circuit
Headline: Fifth Circuit Rules that Texas Ban on Corporate Contributions to Political Committees Violates the First Amendment.

Area of Law: First Amendment, Campaign Finance.

Issue Presented: Whether to uphold the preliminary injunction preventing the Texas Ethics Commission from enforcing portions of the Texas Election Code against the political committee Texans for Free Enterprise (TFE), thereby allowing TFE to receive contributions from corporations to fund political speech in connection with an election cycle.

Brief Summary: TFE is a political committee that, while it raises money to fund its own political speech, does not make any contributions to political candidates. Bound by provisions of the Texas Election Code prohibiting it from receiving contributions from corporations, TFE sued the Texas Ethics Commission seeking an injunction to prevent the ban from being enforced against it. The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas granted a preliminary injunction in TFE's favor. The Commission appealed, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed. To uphold the injunction, the Court had to find that TFE had established "a substantial likelihood of success on the merits." In finding that TFE had established this element, the Court went on to hold that "the challenged law is incompatible with the First Amendment." To make this declaration, the Fifth Circuit relied heavily on Citizens United v. FEC, the 2010 Supreme Court case that held unconstitutional the federal ban on independent expenditures by corporations, and also on the decisions of other courts of appeals. The Fifth Circuit refrained from establishing a level of scrutiny to be applied in this or future such cases.

Significance: The Fifth Circuit held the provisions of the Texas Election Code preventing political committee contributions by corporations to be unconstitutional.

For the full opinion, please see:

Panel: Circuit Judges Smith, Dennis, and Higginson.

Argument Date: 9/4/2013.

Date of Issued Opinion: 10/16/2013.

Docket Number: No. 13-50014.

Decided: Affirmed.

Case Alert Author: LaDelle Davenport.

Counsel: Evan Scott Greene, Office of the Attorney General, for Appellants Texas Ethics Commission and David A. Reisman; Chris K. Gober, Gober Hilgers, P.L.L.C., for Appellee Texans for Free Enterprise.

Author of Opinion: Judge Smith.

Case Alert Circuit Supervisor: Aaron-Andrew P. Bruhl.

    Posted By: Aaron Bruhl @ 10/17/2013 03:18 PM     5th Circuit  

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