District Court Rejects Challenge to Disclosure Provisions Upheld by Supreme Court in Citizens United


Today, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia dismissed a challenge to the federal “electioneering communications” disclosure provisions in Independence Institute v. Federal Election Commission (FEC). Last month, the Campaign Legal Center, joined by Democracy 21 and Public Citizen, filed an amici brief in the case, urging the Court to reject the suit, arguing that the exact same disclosure provisions had been upheld by the Supreme Court as recently as the 2010 Citizens United decision.

“We are pleased the court recognized what plaintiff ignored: that the Supreme Court upheld this disclosure requirement not only in McConnell v FEC, but also under Chief Justice Roberts in Citizens United v. FEC,” said Tara Malloy, Campaign Legal Center Senior Counsel. “While a slim majority of the current Supreme Court has been overtly hostile to numerous longstanding campaign finance reforms, it has been steadfast in recognizing, by overwhelming margins, the vital public interest in disclosing the identities of those seeking to influence election outcomes. The district court properly rejected plaintiff’s request to overturn a law enacted to prevent ‘dark money’ groups spending to influence elections anonymously.”

Plaintiff sought to run a broadcast ad referring to Senator Mark Udall (D-CO) shortly before Election Day without disclosing its donors. The challenged law requires such disclosure when groups spend more than $10,000 on “electioneering communications”—defined as any television or radio ad that mentions the name of a federal candidate within 60 days of a general election or 30 days of a primary election. Congress enacted the “electioneering communications” disclosure law as part of the McCain-Feingold Act to curb widespread evasion of earlier disclosure requirements that applied only to “express advocacy” ads. Since then, the Supreme Court has twice upheld the “electioneering communications” disclosure requirements: first in McConnell v. FEC (2003) in a facial challenge, and again in Citizens United v. FEC (2010) in an as-applied challenge nearly identical to the current lawsuit.

To read the court’s opinion, click here.

To read the brief, click here