In Latest Campaign Finance Challenge, Watchdogs File in Defense of Vermont’s Disclosure Laws in 2nd Circuit

Today, the Campaign Legal Center, joined by Democracy 21, filed an amici curiae brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, defending the disclosure provisions and contribution limits of the State of Vermont’s campaign finance law in Vermont Right to Life Committee (VRLC) v. Sorrell. The suit is part of a long string of challenges to state disclosure laws.

“This is suit is just the latest case to ask yet another federal court to ignore legal precedent in order to gut the type of disclosure law that has repeatedly been upheld by the Supreme Court and appellate courts,” said Tara Malloy, Legal Center Senior Counsel.  “In recent years there has been a concerted and well-funded litigation campaign aimed at undermining federal, state and local disclosure laws. The clear goal is to keep anonymous the buying of selling of influence with elected officials. Fortunately, the courts have long recognized that disclosure laws serve the vital public interest in preventing corruption of public officials and ensuring that voters can make informed decisions at the polls.”  

In recent years the disclosure laws in nearly two dozen states have been challenged, and the vast majority of these challenges have been turned away by the courts. More than half of these challenges have been brought by groups represented by James Bopp, the former Republican National Committeeman from Indiana who originally brought the Citizens United case exclusively as a challenge to federal disclosure laws. Despite other aspects of the controversial decision, the Supreme Court in Citizens United turned away the disclosure challenge by an overwhelming 8-1 majority.

In addition to challenging disclosure requirements, VRLC asks the court to invalidate the state contribution limits as applied to its fund that allegedly makes only independent expenditures. The district court, however, found that the “independent” fund was anything but independent, citing evidence that there was a “fluidity of funds” and “no clear functional divide” between the allegedly “independent” fund and VRLC’s political committee making contributions directly to Vermont candidates.

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