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Anti-abortion group loses appeal over PAC status

By Bill Mears, CNN Supreme Court Producer
updated 12:44 PM EST, Mon January 7, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Supreme Court rejects case without comment
  • Lawsuit stemmed from ad about Barack Obama in 2008 campaign
  • Group argued its issue advocacy not subject to federal regulation

Washington (CNN) -- An anti-abortion group will not get a hearing before the U.S. Supreme Court on its appeal of federal law designating it as a political nonprofit that must disclose information about its financial donors.

The Justices rejected the case involving the The Real Truth About Abortion, Inc. without comment on Monday.

The Virginia-based group, formally known as The Real Truth About Obama, argued that its "issue advocacy" was protected free speech and not subject to federal regulation, since it did not "expressly advocate the election or defeat" or "make any contribution" to a political candidate.

Organizations labeled "political action committees" are subject to longstanding requirements regarding donor contributions and spending limits.

Generally PACs are organizations advocating for or against a candidate, legislation, ballot initiative, or general issue like abortion.

They are often backed by corporations, unions, and trade associations. Other PACs like issue advocacy groups are not connected or sponsored by any related entity and are free to solicit funds from the general public.

A number of groups complained federal controls were overly broad, vague, and arbitrarily applied.

Real Truth case stemmed from plans to spend money on two radio advertisements about Barack Obama's positions when he was running for president in 2008. The Justice Department and the Federal Election Commission resisted the effort, resulting in a lawsuit.

The case was initially litigated while the high court decided a related blockbuster appeal called Citizens United v. FEC. The 5-4 conservative majority allowed corporations, labor unions, and a range of issue advocacy groups to use their general treasury funds for electioneering.

That 2010 decision opened up corporate spending for federal campaigns, leading to complaints the integrity of the political system was being corrupted by unlimited amounts of money being poured into elections.

But that decision did not affect the current ban on direct corporate or union contributions to federal campaigns. Groups wanting to do so still must organize separate PACs.

The case is Real Truth About Abortion v. FEC (12-311).

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