Federal Court in Wyoming Sides with Campaign Legal Center & Democracy 21, Rejects Latest Disclosure Challenge


Today, a federal court in Wyoming dealt another setback to groups challenging disclosure laws nationwide.  Citing a “wall of precedent” upholding disclosure laws, U.S. District Judge Scott Skavdahl refused to preliminarily enjoin a number of FEC regulations and policies that implement the federal disclosure laws in Free Speech v. FEC.   Specifically, Free Speech is challenging the “subpart (b)” definition of “expressly advocating” (11 C.F.R. § 100.22(b) and the FEC’s methodology for determining when a group has campaign activity as its “major purpose” – both crucial regulations in implementing the disclosure requirements applicable to about independent spending in federal elections. 

The Campaign Legal Center, joined by Democracy 21, filed an amici brief in the case defending the disclosure regulations.

“In upholding these federal regulations, the Wyoming district court has joined the near consensus of the courts that political disclosure is a vital measure that ensures a well-informed electorate and combats political corruption.” said Tara Malloy, Campaign Legal Center Senior Counsel.  “Across the country disclosure laws are being challenged by groups seeking to keep secret their deep-pocketed but publicity-shy funders.  While the surge in legal challenges is troubling, we are heartened to see that almost all courts to review disclosure laws in the post-Citizens United era have upheld those laws.”

Free Speech is just one case in a nationwide litigation campaign challenging state, local and federal disclosure laws applicable to both candidate elections and ballot referenda.  It closely resembles another challenge to the FEC’s “subpart (b)” definition of “expressly advocating,” Real Truth About Abortion v. FEC, which was recently rejected by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.

In March of this year, Free Speech submitted an advisory opinion request to the FEC proposing to run a series of attack ads and seeking to avoid registering as a political committee in order to hide the identities of its contributors.  The Campaign Legal Center, joined with Democracy 21, filed comments with the FEC at the time urging the Commission to advise the organization “Free Speech” that many of its ads were “express advocacy,” and as a result, it would likely be required to register and report as a political committee.

The Legal Center and Democracy 21 were aided in this litigation by Larry B. Jones of Simpson, Kepler & Edwards, LLC, the Cody, Wyoming Division of Burg Simpson Eldredge Hersh & Jardine, P.C.

To read the minute order of the district court, click here.   

To read the amici brief filed by the Campaign Legal Center and Democracy 21, click here.