In a ruling that reverberated across the country, a federal appeals court has upheld Washington state’s campaign finance disclosure laws.
A panel of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the Washington statute does not trample the First Amendment rights of Human Life of Washington, a group that did not want to disclose its donors for a campaign opposing an assisted suicide ballot measure in 2008, according to an Associated Press article.
Human Life of Washington maintained that the state’s disclosure requirements for political committees, independent expenditures, and political advertising were unconstitutional.
The requirements, the appeals panel said, “have become an important part of our First Amendment tradition.”
“There is a substantial relationship between Washington State’s interest in informing the electorate and the definitions and disclosure requirements it employs to advance that interest,” the judges added.
Indiana-based lawyer James Bopp, who has challenged campaign finance regulations across the country, represented Human Life of Washington.
In Washington, D.C., Paul Ryan of the Campaign Legal Center, a group that filed a brief in the case favoring transparency, called the ruling “a victory for citizens over special interests.” Roll Call quoted Ryan as saying:
“As more and more anonymous special interest money is flooding into the 2010 election cycle, the Ninth Circuit ruling is particularly important in light of the fact that disclosure laws are facing challenges from coast-to-coast.”
The Campaign Legal Center is a Justice at Stake partner on state reform issues. To read more about legal challenges to state political disclosure laws, check out Gavel Grab.