Buckley v. American Constitutional Law Foundation Inc.

PETITIONER: Buckley
RESPONDENT: American Constitutional Law Foundation Inc.
LOCATION: North Carolina General Assembly

DOCKET NO.: 97-930
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1986-2005)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit

CITATION: 525 US 182 (1999)
ARGUED: Oct 14, 1998
DECIDED: Jan 12, 1999

ADVOCATES:
Gale Norton - Argued the cause for the petitioner, on behalf of the Petitioner
Neil D. O'Toole - Argued the cause for the respondents

Facts of the case

Colorado practices an initiative-petition process in which citizens can make laws directly through balloting initiatives. Acting on behalf of ballot petitioners, the American Constitutional Law Foundation (Foundation) challenged the constitutionality of six limitations imposed by Colorado on the petitioning process. After mixed rulings in both trial and appellate courts, the Supreme Court granted certiorari to review three of the six original restrictions. The first required petition circulators to be registered voters. The second required them to wear identification badges with their names, status as "volunteer" or "paid," and if the latter then their employer's phone number. The third required initiative proponents to report names, addresses, and registration voting counties for all paid circulators, as well as salary per petition signature, and each circulator's total salary. Proponents also had to report, on a monthly basis, all proponent names, names and addresses of circulators, circulators' monthly salary and debt totals, and the name of each proposed ballot measure.

Question

Did the State of Colorado's imposition of name, badge, and financial disclosure requirements, on initiative-petition proponents and their circulators, violate the First Amendment's freedom of speech protections?

Media for Buckley v. American Constitutional Law Foundation Inc.

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 14, 1998 in Buckley v. American Constitutional Law Foundation Inc.

William H. Rehnquist:

We'll hear argument first this morning in Number 97-930, Victoria Buckley v. The American Constitutional Law Foundation.

General Norton.

Gale Norton:

Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court:

Colorado views the initiative process as an essential part of our law making function.

The right of initiative is the first section under the Colorado constitution under the heading, Legislative Department.

Because this is an important process to State government we have established a limited structure of regulation intended to safeguard the people's right to democratic self government while ensuring the fairness of our election process.

Beyond the two viewpoints represented in the courtroom today, there are two other important interests that are protected through our regulatory process.

The first is the interest of those who may oppose an initiative, and the second is the interest of the signers of the petition.

Anthony M. Kennedy:

May I ask just one factual question?

Gale Norton:

Yes, sir.

Anthony M. Kennedy:

I understand there's a final reporting requirement, a disclosure requirement, and that is not challenged here.

Gale Norton:

That is correct.

It is the reports that deal with the monthly reporting requirement as to the individual petition circulators.

Anthony M. Kennedy:

Well, does the financial disclosure that's made at the end, and it's not challenged, separate out the amount that's paid for solicitors, so if I read the report I know that they spent X dollars for TV advertising and Y dollars for... to pay circulators?

Do I... can I find that out from the final report?

Gale Norton:

The final report would list all of the expenditures included among the expenditures of the sponsoring campaign committee--

Anthony M. Kennedy:

What I'm asking, is it a lump sum, or is it separated out?

Gale Norton:

--It is separated out in detail.

Anthony M. Kennedy:

And when is that final report due?

Is that before the election or after?

Gale Norton:

I'm not sure, Your Honor.

Antonin Scalia:

It would also show the amounts that went to the individual petition circulators?

Gale Norton:

That is correct.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg:

--that may be filed with the petition when the petition is completed?

Isn't that when that report gets filed?

I thought the monthly reports were while the petition was in circulation.

Gale Norton:

The monthly reports are while it is in circulation.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg:

But when the completed petition is there, and the sponsor says, we have enough votes, at that time the so called final report would go in?

Gale Norton:

Your Honor, I'm not sure what the due date is for the final report.

Anthony M. Kennedy:

Is there anything in the monthly disclosure statements that break it down expenditure by expenditure, so if I looked at the monthly disclosure statement, could I see how much was paid just for circulating?