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SpeechNow ruling in effect

The D.C. Circuit Court, in an apparently unanimous en banc order, put into effect Monday its March decision in a major new campaign finance case, quickening the pace of the case and putting new pressure on the government to decide on its next legal step — perhaps, a Supreme Court appeal.  The order implementing the decision in, et al., v. Federal Election Commission (Circuit docket 08-5223) can be found here.

The FEC had urged the Court not to issue its mandate promptly, to give the Commission and the U.S. Solicitor General more time to decide what, if any, steps they now might take to block the decision pending a possible petition to the Supreme Court.  If the SG is going to take the case on to the Supreme Court, it very likely would have to ask for some temporary halt in the case pending the outcome of that appeal.  By issuing the mandate Monday, the Circuit Court cleared the way for the case to go back to a federal District Court for further action, and also cut two weeks off of the time that would normally have elapsed before such an order would have come out.

A government appeal to the Supreme Court seems highly likely, since the SpeechNow decision not only struck down a major federal campaign finance law, but also marked a major constitutional shift in that field, opening the way for a flood of more millions of dollars into the congressional election campaign, now underway across the nation.   In its unanimous ruling in March, the Circuit Court struck down a federal ceiling on contributions to independent political groups that want to spend the money directly — in unlimited amounts — to support or oppose specific federal candidates: running for Congress this year, seeking the Presidency two years from now.

Under Supreme Court Rules, a petition for review of the case must now be filed by June 24.   But Monday’s action is likely to force the Solicitor General to decide quickly whether to seek a stay of the mandate pending a trip to the Supreme Court.