Ninth Circuit Upholds California Disclosure Laws in Prop 8 Case


Today, in v. Bowen, the Ninth Circuit rejected a constitutional challenge to disclosure requirements in California’s Political Reform Act that require state ballot measure committees to identify their campaign contributors above a $100 reporting threshold.  The groups that brought the case—which raised and spent tens of millions of dollars in 2008 in support of Proposition 8, a successful statewide ballot initiative that has since been invalidated— sought to overturn these disclosure requirements as unconstitutional, both facially and as applied to them, on the basis of claimed “harassment” directed at their campaign donors.  The Court of Appeals upheld the district court’s determination that the laws are facially valid but did not reach the merits of the as-applied claims, finding instead that the intervening disclosure of the groups’ contributors rendered their appeal non-justifiable.

“Today’s decision deals yet another blow to the coordinated campaign against transparency being waged in courts nationwide.  The groups bringing these challenges across the country have repeatedly tried to equate mere criticism they may have received from their political opponents with the very unique circumstances that have warranted exemption from disclosure laws in past cases,” said Megan McAllen, Campaign Legal Center Associate Counsel.  “This is not the NAACP in the Jim Crow South or even the Socialist Workers Party but simply another group seeking to influence election outcomes anonymously. The courts have repeatedly affirmed that disclosure—in all but the rarest of cases—is a constitutional means to provide voters with vital information about the sources of campaign money and enables them to evaluate the interests seeking to influence their votes.  These dogged attempts to evade constitutionally sound disclosure laws are simply untenable.”

The Campaign Legal Center previously filed an amicus brief in the Court of Appeals supporting California’s disclosure laws and urging the Court to uphold the decision below.  

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