Legal Center Files in Defense of California Disclosure Law in Ninth Circuit


Late yesterday, the Campaign Legal Center filed an amicus brief v. Bowen in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in support of disclosure provisions in California’s Political Reform Act.  The brief urges the court to affirm a district court decision upholding the state ballot measure committee contribution disclosure requirements.

This case is part of coordinated campaign that has resulted in a flood of litigation nationwide with the goal of undermining disclosure laws.  The plaintiffs in, who are seeking to overturn California disclosure laws, raised and spent tens of millions of dollars in support of Proposition 8, a successful statewide ballot initiative that amended the California Constitution to define marriage as valid only between a man and a woman.

“The groups bringing these challenges across the country have repeatedly tried to draw flimsy parallels between any criticisms they may have received from their political opponents to the very rare exemptions to disclosure laws granted by the courts in the past,” said Paul S. Ryan, Campaign Legal Center Associate Legal Counsel.  “It is shameless to attempt to compare themselves to groups like the Socialist Workers Party or the Alabama NAACP circa 1950, groups granted exemption from disclosure laws because their members suffered serious threats to their lives and livelihoods.  The courts have repeatedly seen through these grossly disproportionate comparisons and remained loathe to liberally grant exemptions and undermine a democratic cornerstone like disclosure.”

In the last decade alone the Supreme Court has upheld disclosure laws by votes of 8-1 three times, most recently in Doe v. Reed. In his concurrence in the case, Justice Scalia made very clear the importance of transparency to the health of our democracy:

Requiring people to stand up in public for their political acts fosters civic courage, without which democracy is doomed.  For my part, I do not look forward to a society which, thanks to the Supreme Court, campaigns anonymously (McIntyre) and even exercises the direct democracy of initiative and referendum hidden from public scrutiny and protected from the accountability of criticism.  This does not resemble the Home of the Brave.

To read the Legal Center brief v. Bowen, click here.