By Kenneth P. Doyle
Federal Election Commission disclosure rules for political ads known as electioneering communications have been upheld as constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court (Independence Institute v. FEC, U.S., 16-743, affirmed 2/27/17)…
Lawyers for the Independence Institute, led by Allen Dickerson of the nonprofit Center for Competitive Politics (CCP), have acknowledged in court filings that previous rulings have “routinely” upheld FEC disclosure requirements. But, the challengers argued that this case presented “an opportunity to reverse this trend and broadly safeguard” a right to fund some political messages anonymously.
The institute’s lawyers argued that disclosure requirements can violate First Amendment free speech guarantees, unless the government has a strong interest in disclosure. They said the government’s “informational interest is particularly weak” in this case because it involved a radio ad focused on a legislative issue and didn’t mention anything about an election…
The center’s chairman, Bradley Smith, a former Republican FEC commissioner, said uncertainty over the limits of disclosure law has led to passage of “intrusive laws that provide little or no value to the public, and enable official and unofficial harassment of speakers.”
By Kenneth P. Doyle
By Justin Cosgrove
The US Supreme Court affirmed the judgment in Independence Institute v. Federal Election Commission in a summary disposition on Monday. The case revolved around whether Congress may require organizations engaged in policy issues and unconnected to campaigns, to report to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) and publicly disclose their donors pursuant to the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002. The Independence Institute wanted to run an ad in support of a bill that would give federal judges discretion for sentencing of non-violent crimes. In their advertisement, they mentioned the name of a sitting senator and were therefore qualified as an “electioneering communication.” Under such a designation, the Institute would be required to report to the FEC and disclose their donors. Upon challenging this provision before the US District Court for the District of Columbia, the court found in favor of the FEC. With their summary disposition, the justices affirmed the district court’s ruling without discussion.