Mississippi federal court rebukes Chamber on advertising

Friday, October 27, 2000

For Immediate Release:
October 27, 2000
Contact: Joanne Doroshow
Says Chamber's Failure to Disclose Contributions Violates Campaign Finance Laws
In a much anticipated decision issued late yesterday, a United States District Court in Jackson Mississippi rejected claims by the Chamber of Commerce that its advertising in Mississippi Supreme Court races was "issue advertising," saying the group was not entitled to conceal its spending or contributors. The court found:

"[T]he advertisements at issue provide explicit directives to vote for the named candidates. … Aired at the very time statewide judicial elections were being conducted in Mississippi, the advertisements contain no true discussion of issues. …Although the express words "vote for the candidate" do not appear anywhere in the advertisements, no reasonable viewer would construe the advertisements otherwise. …[T]hese advertisements are virtually the same as the advertisements being aired by the candidates themselves.
"[T]hese advertisements do not attempt to discuss issues. Rather, the advertisements offer thinly veiled exhortations to support the campaigns of the aforesaid candidates, a plain, clever attempt to avoid the reach of the Mississippi reporting and disclosure laws."

Chamber of Commerce v. Michael Moore, Attorney General, et al., Civil Action No. 3:00-cv-778WS, November 2, 2000.
The U.S. Chamber has spent at least $420,000 on advertising in Mississippi's Supreme Court races since October. Attorney General Mike Moore and Secretary of State Eric Clark challenged the Chamber's failure to file campaign finance reports, which would reveal their donors and spending.
The involvement of the Chamber in Mississippi's Supreme Court races is part of a grotesque election-year effort by corporate special interests to buy judgeships across America. For the first time in history, the Chamber, funneling major corporate money, is dumping millions of dollars into states for the purpose of electing anti-consumer judges. In states like Ohio, the Chamber is flooding the airwaves with attack ads against Supreme Court Justice Alice Robie Resnick, who in 1999 declared Ohio's draconian "tort reform" law unconstitutional. Also in Ohio, the Chamber has argued that these are "issue ads" allowing it to conceal its corporate contributors.

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