Supreme Court Upholds Campaign Finance Disclosure Law

Alexandria, VA – The Supreme Court today affirmed without comment a ruling in the case Independence Institute v. Federal Election Commission, upholding the constitutionality of a campaign finance disclosure law. The Court’s order reflects agreement with the lower court’s result, but not necessarily its reasoning.

Under the law challenged in the case, government reporting obligations are triggered for any group that runs a broadcast ad that names a federal candidate, runs within 60 days of a general election or 30 days of a primary, and could possibly reach 50,000 people in the district or state where the named candidate was running for election. The organization must report the spending on the ad and the names and addresses of donors who gave $1,000 or more in earmarked donations “for the purpose of furthering” the ad.

The Center for Competitive Politics (CCP), which represented the Institute, released the following statement in connection with the Court’s decision:

“We are disappointed that the Supreme Court chose to forego full consideration of this important appeal, and instead summarily affirmed the lower court,” said Allen Dickerson, CCP Legal Director. “We look forward to continuing our efforts to defend the right to free speech and association.”

“Politicians are exploiting the current legal uncertainty to pass intrusive laws that provide little or no value to the public, and enable official and unofficial harassment of speakers,” said CCP Chairman Bradley A. Smith. “The court has yet to uphold intrusive laws that affect issue speech made more than 60 days before an election. It has yet to consider laws that force disclosure for contributions not earmarked for election-related speech. The Supreme Court has repeatedly found that donor privacy is essential for free speech and dissent on issues. We hope to vindicate those rights in future cases.”

The case is Independence Institute v. Federal Election Commission. A copy of the lower court’s decision and the briefs filed in the case are available here. A backgrounder on the litigation can be found here.

The Center for Competitive Politics is now the Institute for Free Speech.