A federal appeals court on Thursday dealt a setback to campaign finance reform advocates in a ruling about who pays for political ads. The ruling upheld a Federal Election Commission regulation that narrows disclosure requirements for corporations and labor groups paying for ads that run close to Election Day. The regulation says groups running the ads only have to reveal donors who contribute for the express purpose of paying for the ads. That means donors who choose not to say how they want their money used can remain anonymous. Opponents say the rule undermines Congress’ goal of letting voters know which donors are trying to influence elections. A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit reversed a lower court decision that threw out the regulation last year. The ruling comes on the six-year anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which lifted limits on political spending by corporations and labor unions.
Writing for the panel, Judge Janice Rogers Brown said the court gave the FEC wide latitude to interpret Congress’ mandate. Just because one of the purposes of campaign reform laws was broader disclosure “doesn’t mean that anything less than maximal disclosure is subversive,” she said.
Rogers said the FEC had a valid concern that some contributors to a union or corporation’s general treasury may not support the group’s political ads. She agreed with the agency’s reasoning that a rule requiring more disclosure could mislead voters as to who really supports the ads and would be too burdensome for the groups to disclose.
Full Article: Appeals court upholds FEC rule on disclosure requirements.