Donor Disclosure Provisions Again Upheld by Fourth Circuit in Real Truth About Obama


Today, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit affirmed a lower court ruling upholding FEC rules governing donor disclosure in The Real Truth About Obama (RTAO) v. FEC.   The suit specifically challenged the “subpart (b)” definition of “expressly advocating” (11 C.F.R. § 100.22(b)), as well as the FEC’s methodology for determining when a group has campaign activity as its “major purpose,” an important step in the larger determination of political committee status.

“This unanimous decision from the Fourth Circuit represents the latest in a string of victories for political transparency in the courts against a concerted nationwide litigation effort seeking to eliminate or cut back disclosure laws at the federal and state level,” Legal Center Senior Counsel Tara Malloy stated.  “The public deserves to know who is footing the bills for the political advertising that can make or break candidate campaigns. The Supreme Court, even in its controversial decision in Citizens United, made it abundantly clear that disclosure of political spending is vitally important to our democratic process.”

This appeal to the Fourth Circuit is the latest development in the long-running proceedings in RTAO v. FEC.   The group originally challenged a number of FEC rules, including the rule implementing the electioneering communications funding restriction that was adopted after the Supreme Court’s 2007 decision in Wisconsin Right to Life v. FEC (11 C.F.R. § 114.15).   The district court and Court of Appeals upheld all of the challenged rules in 2008 and 2009.  Subsequent judicial decisions, most notably Citizens United v. FEC, mooted much of the case, however.  Consequently, in April 2010, the Supreme Court vacated the 2009 Court of Appeals’ decision, and remanded the case for further consideration in light of Citizens United and “the Solicitor General’s suggestion of mootness.”  Upon remand, the district court again considered and rejected the two remaining claims relating to the “subpart (b)” definition of “expressly advocating” and the FEC’s “major purpose” methodology in June 2011.

To read the decision of the Fourth Circuit, click here.

The Legal Center, along with Democracy 21, has filed several amici briefs in the case dating back to 2008.  To read the brief filed with the Fourth Circuit on October 27, 2011, click here.