WASHINGTON – The National Rifle Association on Monday asked the Supreme Court to issue an emergency order blocking a lower court's ruling on part of the new campaign finance law from taking effect.
Meanwhile, the Republican National Committee filed legal arguments opposing stay requests on the soft-money component of the ruling. The RNC is among the groups suing to overturn parts of the law, including a ban on soft-money contributions to the national party committees.
The RNC believes the lower court's ruling would let it work with local parties and Republican campaigns on get-out-the-vote activities in states with elections this year, a Republican official said on condition of anonymity.
The California Democratic and Republican parties were also filing arguments opposing a stay on the soft money section of the ruling. Those defending the law, including its sponsors and the Justice Department, asked a three-judge federal court panel last week to stay its entire May 2 decision on the law.
The NRA, suing to overturn interest-group political ad restrictions in the law, asked the lower court last Wednesday to stay the part of its ruling upholding some of them. The court gave parties in the case until noon this Wednesday to weigh in on the stay requests.
The NRA says the lower court isn't moving quickly enough, and it's hoping for speedier action from the Supreme Court. The gun-rights group says it has ads it wants to air now.
"Every day this law is in place we are injured in terms of our constitutional right to free speech," said Wayne LaPierre, the NRA's executive vice president.
There is no timeline spelling out how long the Supreme Court can take to act on an emergency stay request, but it usually responds quickly in high-profile cases.
In its request to the lower court, the NRA said that without a stay, it would be in violation of the law if it ran an ad planned for Arizona urging Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., to vote for legislation that would block lawsuits against gun dealers whose products are used in crimes. The ad also criticizes Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer of New York for opposing the legislation. It is one of several ads the NRA wants to run targeting key lawmakers on the issue.
In its May 2 ruling, the lower court ruled unconstitutional a provision barring a number of interest groups, including those financed with corporate and union money, from airing issue ads mentioning federal candidates in those candidates' districts the month before a primary and within two months of a general election.
It upheld fallback rules that bar the same groups from airing ads that promote, support, attack or oppose a candidate at any time. It's unclear how far interest groups can go when featuring candidates in ads because the law doesn't say what it means to promote, support, attack or oppose a candidate.
If the NRA wins a stay, the rules barring certain ads within 30 days of a primary and 60 days of a general election would kick in. The group opposes that provision, too, but says it prefers that to the fallback rules because no Senate election is imminent.
The Justice Department and the law's sponsors have asked the lower court to stay its entire decision pending Supreme Court appeals, including a finding striking down part of a ban on the raising of large soft-money corporate and union contributions by national party committees.