Gavel Grab

Ruling on Campaign Donor Disclosure is Reversed

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia has reversed a lower court’s ruling that was seen earlier as paving the way for disclosure of identities of secret donors who have funded political advertising called “electioneering communications.”

Judge Amy Berman Jackson of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled last winter that the Federal Election Commission had gone too far when it allowed groups that fund these ads to keep their financiers anonymous (see Gavel Grab). “Electioneering communications” are ads that clearly seek to sway voters, even if the ads stop short of specifically calling  for a candidate’s election or defeat.

This week, a panel of appeals judges returned the case to Judge Jackson with directions to get further consideration of the matter by the FEC, according to the Associated Press.

“The Court of Appeals’ decision today will keep the American people, for the time being, in the dark about who is attempting to influence their vote with secret money,” Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., said. He brought the lawsuit that led to Judge Jackson’s ruling.

“We’re pleased with the ruling today,” said Mario H. Lopez, president of the Hispanic Leadership Fund, one of two groups that appealed the lower court ruling. “We have to wait and see how the rest of the case is resolved. We’re proud to be defending the First Amendment rights of not just our organization but all Americans.”

Shortly after Citizens United was handed down by the Supreme Court in 2010, Bert Brandenburg, executive director of Justice at Stake, emphasized the importance of campaign finance disclosure in judicial elections.

“States that elect judges should immediately enact strong, real-time reporting laws, so that special-interest spending is forced into the sunlight. Voters have a right to know who is paying to put judges on their courts,” he said. To learn more about the importance of robust disclosure laws, see the JAS issues page on the topic.

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