BREAKING: Eighth Circuit Strikes Down Part of Iowa’s Election Laws As Unconstitutional

by Colin Smith | June 13, 2013

By Colin Smith

The opinion in Iowa Right to Life v. Tooker—a case we predicted would be a blockbuster—was handed down by the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals this morning.  While I have only had the opportunity to skim the lengthy opinion at this point, the following appears to be the result of the case:


  • Iowa’s disclosure requirement that a one-time, event-driven report be publicly filed when a corporate entity makes a political independent expenditure
  • Iowa’s disclosure requirement that any one-time, event-driven report be filed within 48 hours of making the expenditure.
  • Iowa’s ban on direct corporate contributions to candidates.


  • IRTL’s First Amendment (speech) challenge to Iowa’s requirement that a corporation’s board of directors approve, beforehand, the making of any political independent expenditure.
  • IRTL’s Fourteenth Amendment (equal protection) challenge to Iowa’s requirement that a corporation’s board of directors approve, beforehand, the making of any  political independent expenditure

Struck Down:

  • Iowa’s requirement that periodic, ongoing and supplemental reports be filed by corporate entities that make independent expenditures.  (These reports were required in addition to the one-time, event-driven reports mentioned above.  These ongoing reports were mandatory even if the entity was not speaking).
  • Iowa’s requirement that a termination statement be filed when a corporate entity wishes to cease making further political independent expenditures.

Issue Left Open:

  • The court seemingly left open the question about whether or not all entities who want to make independent expenditures need to “register” with the state in order to do so.  The court did not venture to explain its reasoning, but instead briefly stated in a footnote that it was “not hold[ing] that any form of initial reporting [registration] requirement is constitutional. . . .” (emphasis in original).

Notable Quote:

  • In striking down part of Iowa’s campaign finance law, the court called Iowa’s reporting requirements “additional, redundant, and more burdensome” than the requirements in previous cases.

The outcome of this case is going to have a large impact on Iowa’s upcoming 2014 election cycle.  It also has the potential to create big waves in the State legislature if  lawmakers attempt to draft new legislation to comply with the ruling.  Stay tuned for more detailed analysis of this important case.




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On Brief: Iowa’s Appellate Blog is devoted to appellate litigation with a focus on the Iowa Supreme Court, the Iowa Court of Appeals, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.


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