Last December, U.S. District Judge Victoria Marie Calvert granted a preliminary injunction to two nonprofit entities, one a 501(c)(3) and another a 501(c)(4), that challenged the enforcement of Georgia’s campaign finance laws against the entities. The injunction issued by Judge Calvert enjoined the State of Georgia from enforcing key components of Georgia’s Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Act (the “Act”).
The Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission (“Commission”), the entity that regulates campaign committees, political action committees, and independent committees (a.k.a. super PACs) in Georgia, alleged that the two non-profit entities failed to register and file disclosure reports. The Commission alleged that, based on the groups’ involvement in the 2018 statewide elections, the groups should have registered as independent committees and that they should have registered as campaign committees for alleged involvement in a 2019 municipal election.
On August 22, 2022, the two non-profit entities sued the State alleging that the Act violated the groups’ First and Fourteenth Amendment rights under the U.S. Constitution. Specifically, the groups challenged the Act’s definitions of “campaign committee” and “independent committee” and, in particular, the disclosure requirements that apply to those types of committees.
Judge Calvert agreed with the non-profits that “the Act’s definition of campaign committee is unconstitutional solely as applied to ballot committees,” which are a type of campaign committee, finding the definition too broad to pass constitutional scrutiny. The court similarly found the Act’s definition of “independent committee” to be “unconstitutionally overbroad” and ordered that the State was “preliminarily enjoined . . . from enforcing” any of the Act’s regulatory provisions “as to violations pertaining to ballot committees and independent committees.”
The Eleventh Circuit will decide whether that order stands and whether the Commission may continue to regulate ballot committees and independent committees that operate in Georgia. The parties are to submit their appellate briefs beginning March 8, 2022.
The attorneys at Chilivis Grubman represent clients of all types and sizes in connection with campaign finance and election law. If you need assistance with such a matter, please contact us today.