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Federal Court Ruling Favors Future of Texas Super PACs

Ruling trumps state election code ban on some corporate contributions

AUSTIN, Texas, Dec. 10, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- A federal judge has ruled in favor of a Texas-based political action committee (PAC) by granting a preliminary injunction in a First Amendment lawsuit that may permanently clear the way for so-called "super PACs" to influence state and local political races in Texas.

In September, the PAC Texans for Free Enterprise sued the Texas Ethics Commission challenging the constitutionality of the Texas Election Code provisions that prohibit PACs from accepting corporate contributions for the purpose of making direct campaign expenditures. The Texas Ethics Commission defines direct campaign expenditures as independent expenditures made without the prior consent, approval or cooperation of the candidate benefitted.

The lawsuit cites the U.S. Supreme Court's 2010 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which held that corporations and unions can raise and spend an unlimited amount of money to campaign independently for candidates running for office. The Citizens United ruling and other court decisions that followed resulted in a new breed of political committees known as super PACs, which can legally raise and spend corporate money to influence elections for federal offices.

Following the Citizens United decision, the Texas Legislature amended the state election code to repeal all sections of the code prohibiting a single corporation from making direct campaign expenditures. The Legislature did not, however, repeal or amend code provisions that prohibit corporations from contributing to political action committees (i.e., super PACs) for the same purpose, which made it illegal for super PACs to influence state and local races in Texas.

The ruling from Judge Lee Yeakel of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas in Austin prevents the Texas Ethics Commission from enforcing the contribution restrictions in Sections 253.003(b) and 253.094(a) of the Texas Election Code against Texans for Free Enterprise until the conclusion of the lawsuit. Notably, Judge Yeakel held that Texans for Free Enterprise has already established a likelihood of success on the merits of its claims.

Texans for Free Enterprise is represented by attorney Chris Gober of Gober Hilgers PLLC and Lewis Sessions of Sessions & Schaffer, P.C. Copies of the complaint in Texans for Free Enterprise v. Texas Ethics Commission, No. 1:12-cv-00845-LY; the motion for preliminary injunction; and Judge Yeakel's opinion can be viewed at http://goberhilgers.com/writing.

With offices in Dallas, TX; Austin, TX; Omaha, Neb.; Lincoln, Neb.; and Washington, D.C., Gober Hilgers PLLC represents international corporations and small businesses, elected officials and candidates, political action committees, and nonprofits in litigation and political compliance matters. For more information, please visit the firm's website at http://goberhilgers.com.

For more information on the Texas super PAC decision, please contact Chris Gober at (214) 842-6825 or [email protected].

SOURCE Gober Hilgers PLLC

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