A court ruling rejecting Federal Election Commission disclosure requirements as too lax has left political players unsure how much they need to report about the financing of issue ads, making the agency a battleground in the dispute over secret money in 2012. The March 30 ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson orders the FEC to rewrite disclosure rules drafted after enactment of the 2002 McCain-Feingold campaign finance law that the court deemed inadequate. Few expect the six-member agency to comply promptly with the order. Divided evenly between Republicans and Democrats, the FEC is notorious for partisan deadlocks. It hasn’t yet mustered a quorum to weigh new regulations arising from the Supreme Court’s 2010 ruling in Citizens United v. FEC, though it did say it would no longer enforce restrictions that kept labor unions and corporations from making political expenditures.
“They’re very tardy in doing this, frankly,” said Indiana election lawyer James Bopp Jr., who petitioned the FEC to write new regulations within weeks of the Citizens United ruling. “There are several regulations that depend exclusively on the sections of the law that the U.S. Supreme Court struck down, and the only responsible course for the FEC would have been to repeal those regulations.”
The March 30 ruling muddies the waters further. At issue is whether trade associations or tax-exempt advocacy groups must report the donors behind the issue ads known as electioneering communications. Such ads picture or name a candidate on the eve of an election but stop short of urging for a vote for or against the individual. Nonprofits spent some $133 million on the ads in 2010 without disclosing donors.
Full Article: FEC Ruling Leaves Ad Uncertainty : Roll Call Politics.