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Judge Blasts FEC For Campaign Finance Mess

Judge Blasts FEC For Campaign Finance Mess

Late Friday the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia took the first step in revealing the identities of the secret donors to groups tied to the Koch brothers and Karl Rove.

The case centers on FEC rules that state that restricted campaign donor disclosures are not valid and must be changed to provide for disclosure. Those rules require that any donors giving to groups spending money on “electioneering communications”  or issue ads must only be disclosed if they specifically earmark their donation to that particular expenditure.

Donors rarely if ever mark their gifts for a specific election expense which means no meaningful disclosure exists.

The FEC rule was challenged as being outside the scope of the agency’s authority and in contravention to its charter from Congress.

Judge Amy Berman Jackson ruled that, “there is no question that the regulation promulgated by the FEC directly contravenes the Congressional goal of increasing transparency and disclosure in electioneering communications.”

“In sum, the Court finds that Congress spoke plainly, that Congress did not delegate authority to the FEC to narrow the disclosure requirement through agency rulemaking, and that a change in the reach of the statute brought about by a Supreme Court ruling did not render plain language, which is broad enough to cover the new circumstances, to be ambiguous,” the ruling continued. “The agency cannot unilaterally decide to take on a quintessentially legislative function; if sound policy suggests that the statute needs tailoring in the wake of WRTL or Citizens United, it is up to Congress to do it.”

Election law advocates hope the ruling is the beginning of the end of a trend, started by the FEC rules and aggravated by the Citizens United decision, of an explosion of undisclosed election contributions and spending, though it is not entirely clear what happens next. An appeal is almost a given since any ruling that would result in real transparency will be fought as long as possible. But that puts the FEC in the awkward position of having to endorse the SuperPAC regime at a time when it’s politically difficult to do so. The FEC needs at least 4 of its 6 commissioners to vote for appeal.

The FEC also has the possibility of passing new rules here that put some teeth into disclosure, which would be the best choice for our democracy.

Whatever the course it will be years before this case is resolved, which means that while the move for election reform is very real, permanent, lasting change takes time.

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Photo from Tom Lohdan via flickr.

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17 comments

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2:42AM PDT on Apr 5, 2012

If it's anti-Koch it ain't propaganda, it's truth.

I guess some think it is just fine and dandy that corporations essentially chose office holders and write legislation for themselves at the nation's expense. Well, if you have no objections to corporate rule you are a fool!

"Fascism should more properly be called corporatism because it is the merger of state and corporate power." -- Benito Mussolini

11:58AM PDT on Apr 4, 2012

We the people are the ones that make sure the rules are changed. We need to insist our politicans put the government back in the hands of the people and take away corportist government. Vote them out if they don't and we need to start in our very own back yards at a community level and work our way up.

10:37AM PDT on Apr 4, 2012

Did Jeffrey "no helmet" W say something? I think what he is trying to say is Obama in 2012!!!!!!!

10:11AM PDT on Apr 4, 2012

No one seems to talk about the continual "running for office" that we are now subjected to.
The hunger for money to finance campaigns is never satisfied. The incumbents are all busy getting re elected, not doing the people's business. For instance, the House of Representatives works 15 days or less per month in Washington...the remainder of time is called District Work Weeks (a/k/a asking for money). In addiion, while in Washington, there is an endless array of "fund raisers" often during the work day to raise money, not to mention the little "phone bank" across the road from the capital...and, guess what, they "telemarket" for money.. on your dime! No wonder nothing gets done!

So it is just not special interests, super pacs, that fuel this stream of money, but it is Representatives and Senators who spend their time raising money, not doing the business they were elected to do. SOLUTION: Term Limits, publicly financed campaigns, limit the election cycle ( my personal favorite..don't you feel like we never get a break from the electioneering anymore? Enough already!

8:32AM PDT on Apr 4, 2012

are you still talking Jeffery? I stopped reading at, "and".....

6:28AM PDT on Apr 4, 2012

When corporations form from human zygotes, then they should have personhood.

3:39AM PDT on Apr 4, 2012

The judge should have blasted the supreme court for this mess. The supreme corporation court.

2:16PM PDT on Apr 3, 2012

"Maybe some would not vote for a candidate financed by the Koch Brothers. Chemical destruction may be on their environmental list of "NO".


Only those who wouldn't have voted for him anyway. The election will be decided by independents, and they don't fall for the anti-Koch propaganda, so it wouldn't matter.

2:11PM PDT on Apr 3, 2012

Oh, sure- they have as much right as American Citizens to donate as much as they want- and the American citizens have a right to have that information availble.

Maybe some would not vote for a candidate financed by the Koch Brothers. Chemical destruction may be on their environmental list of "NO".

2:03PM PDT on Apr 3, 2012

The Koch brothers are American citizens, with the right to donate as much as they want to the PACs, and up to the legal limit limit for the Presidential candidate. Yet the looney left somehow feels outraged at this exercise of their first amendment rights. Yet somehow illegal foreign contributions are just fine as long as the looney left approves of the recipient.

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Unfortunately, not surprising. There isn't enough opportunity here for congress to line their pockets.…

That is one incredibly tolerant cat!

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