Monday, August 17, 2015


Breaking: Hawaii campaign spending case Yamada v. Snipes (A-1 A-Lectrician, Inc) petitions Supreme Court to hear appeal

by Larry Geller

Yamada v. Snipes, the case originally heard by Judge J. Michael Seabright in Hawaii District Court as Yamada Et Al. v. Kuramoto Et Al, also referred to as the A-1 A-Electrician case (1:10-cv-00497-JMS-LEK), may be headed for the Supreme Court. The case concerns disclosure of campaign contributions and the burden or ban on political contributions under various Hawaii laws, and reimbursement of some of the attorneys’ fees.

The Hawaii defendants are members of the Campaign Spending Commission.

A petition for a writ of certiorari is a request to have the Supreme Court agree to hear a case. If it is not accepted, the ruling of the 9th Circuit would stand. The circuits are divided on similar cases, as the petition notes, and so the Court may be somewhat inclined to resolve the differences by taking up one case brought to it.

According to Jamestown, New York attorney Randy Elf, one of the plaintiff attorneys, the petition raises all of A-1’s claims except the as-applied government-contractor-contribution-ban claim.

Here are the opening paragraphs of the petition, with citations stripped out.

Citizens United v. FEC establishes that registration, recordkeeping, and extensive and ongoing reporting are “onerous” organizational and administrative political-committee burdens, while Buckley v. Valeo allows government to trigger political-committee burdens only for “organizations” that (a) are “under the control of ” candidates or (b) have “the major purpose” of “nominating or electing” candidates. But circuits are split over whether another part of Citizens United which approved nonpolitical-committee, i.e., simple, one-time event-driven reports for “electioneering communications,” allows state governments to trigger such PAC-like organizational and administrative burdens regardless of whether the organization is “under the control of ” a candidate or has Buckley’s “major purpose.”

Petitioner A-1 A-Lectrician, Inc. (“A-1”), a large for-profit electrical-construction organization, is not “under the control of ” any candidate(s) and does not have “the major purpose” under Buckley. Nevertheless, Hawaii law triggers PAC-like organizational and administrative burdens for A-1 if it spends more than $1000 on vaguely-described expenditures for the purpose of influencing the nomination or election of any candidate to office, or for or against any question or issue on the ballot.

The petition is posted below, and is a complete, clear and easy-to-read explanation of the plaintiff’s reasoning. It is, however, 270 pages long because it includes appendices with the prior decisions and all of the detailed work needed to convince the Supreme Court to accept the case.

You can also find details of the legislative process behind these bills. It is very rich and detailed.

Did I say easy-to-read? The document is, however, very detailed and bristles with citations, of necessity. So no, not too many Disappeared News readers will challenge themselves to read this document.

The case is so significant that the record should be available to those who are interested. If the Supreme Court takes up the case, we’ll eventually hear their ruling on Hawaii’s campaign spending laws that the plaintiffs are challenging. A Supreme Court ruling will be easier to understand than the briefs they consider in reaching their conclusion.

Should the writ be accepted, there will be oral arguments which the media will analyze to divine the possible outcome of the case.

I won’t summarize the petition because I’m not equipped to do so. Perhaps Courthouse News will write it up. If they do, I’ll link to their article. My prior articles are here.

Do not rely on this copy of the legal document. It is posted here for educational purposes only.

Download Yamada v. Snipes Petition for Writ of Certiorari from Disappeared News


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