Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) has won another victory in his legal battle to force the Federal Election Commission to write stricter disclosure rules for certain types of political ads. A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit rejected a request by two conservative groups that it stay a March federal district court ruling that sided with Van Hollen. Van Hollen sued the FEC last year, arguing that its disclosure regulations for “electioneering communications” were too narrow and contrary to the 2002 Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act. The appeals court ruling, which came late on Monday, raises the prospect that politically active trade associations and nonprofits will have to more fully report who funds the ads they run on the eve of an election.
The ruling doesn’t apply to campaign ads, which explicitly call for a candidate’s election or defeat, but to what’s known as electioneering communications — ads that picture or name a candidate 30 days before a primary or 60 days before a general election.
In 2010, an array of outside groups spent some $80 million on electioneering communications, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Such expenditures are expected to soar this year with the proliferation of politically active nonprofits in the wake of the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United ruling that freed up corporate and union political spending.