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New plea to join Sept. 9 argument

The top-ranking Republican in the U.S. Senate, Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the minority leader, has asked the Supreme Court to allow his lawyer to take part in the special session on Sept. 9 when the Court will consider basic constitutional issues about federal campaign finance law.  That plea, however, is being resisted by the private advocacy group that took the case to the Court, against the Federal Election Commission.

In a motion filed July 31, Sen. McConnell’s attorneys argued that he has a distinct interest in whether the Court overrules a key part of a 2003 decision upholding a restriction on campaign finance — the decision in a case bearing his name, McConnell v. FEC.  He would bring to the Court “a different viewpoint” than the advocacy group Citizens United, the motion contended.

In a response filed Aug. 3, however, Citizens United contended that there would be no value in adding another lawyer to the Sept. 9 hearing.  There is, it said, “no compelling reason” why the Court should hear more than one lawyer on each side of the case of Citizens United v. FEC (08-205).  (However, the FEC has asked the Court to allow it to share its time with a lawyer for four present or former members of Congress who were the lead sponsors of current federal campaign finance law.)

The Court may act as early as next Monday on the question of splitting up the argument among more than one lawyer for each side, and the related question of whether it might expand that argument beyond the presently scheduled 60 minutes — 30 per side.  An expansion of argument time was an alternative suggestion by Sen. McConnell.