The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday upheld federal disclosure rules for political advertising, rejecting an appeal by a Denver-based libertarian think tank that wanted to run an ad without being forced to divulge its major donors. The Denver-based Independence Institute sued the Federal Election Commission, arguing the law requiring such disclosure violated its free speech rights under the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment. The Supreme Court affirmed a lower court’s ruling last year in favor of the commission. It was the latest in a decade-long series of cases brought by conservatives aiming to roll back federal campaign finance restrictions.
The Independence Institute was supported in the case by influential Republican and conservative voices including Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the Judicial Watch legal activist group as well as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce business group.
The institute, ahead of the 2014 congressional elections, had sought to run a radio advertisement about increasing prison costs, telling listeners to urge their Colorado U.S. senators to support sentencing reform.
Because the ad mentioned a senator by name in the lead up to an election, it triggered a provision in the 2002 campaign finance statute known as the McCain-Feingold law requiring the institute to file with the election commission and disclose any donors supporting the ad.