A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit turned down a request to stay an April ruling that struck down a Federal Election Commission regulation that allowed donors to certain nonprofit groups to evade normal campaign spending disclosure requirements. That means that one of the most significant campaign finance loopholes affecting the 2012 race is now closed and Karl Rove and others may suddenly have to disclose donors funding anonymous campaign ads.
“This case represents the first major breakthrough in the effort to restore for the public the disclosure of contributors who are secretly providing massive amounts to influence federal elections,” said Democracy 21 President Fred Wertheimer, one of the lawyers who filed the original lawsuit that led to the April decision, in a statement.
As of the decision, any group with donors giving more than $1000 have an obligation to disclose those donors. But that doesn’t mean things will change immediately. There’s a good chance the stay request will end up before the Supreme Court where Chief Justice John Roberts and the conservative majority have shown deep sympathies to those arguing that disclosing political donations has a chilling effect on speech rights.
In the appellate court ruling, the judges issuing the majority opinion were scathing in their denial, saying the parties had failed to make a strong showing that they would win their appeal on the merits or that they would be irreparably injured absent a stay. Noting the requirement for non-disclosure established in the Citizens United the court wrote: “Intervenors provided no evidence that their contributors ‘would face threats, harassment, or reprisals if their names were disclosed,’… and thus they fail to demonstrate how the disclosure requirements ‘prevent [them] from speaking.’”
At any rate, for now groups wishing to create and fund electioneering communications face two choices: disclose and make sure their actions are in accord with the lower court ruling until some higher authority like the Supreme Court speaks, or continue to flout the law and wait and see what, if any, consequences come of it.
Photo from bfishadow via flickr.