Real Truth About Obama Challenge Rejected, Disclosure Requirements Upheld


Today, the U.S. district court for the Eastern District of Virginia upheld FEC rules that serve to establish federal political committee status and the scope of federal disclosure requirements in Real Truth About Obama (RTAO) v. FEC.  The plaintiff RTAO challenged the much-contested “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 is a well-reasoned decision that will aid in the enforcement of federal campaign finance law,” Legal Center Associate Counsel Tara Malloy stated.  “The ruling means that the federal independent expenditure disclosure requirements are not limited to ‘magic words’ express advocacy, and that the FEC is permitted to do a multi-factored analysis of a group’s activities in determining its ‘major purpose.’”

The RTAO case originally challenged several additional FEC rules, including the rule implementing the Supreme Court’s 2007 decision in Wisconsin Right to Life v. FEC (11 C.F.R. § 114.15).  These claims were mooted by the Supreme Court’sCitizens United ruling and other intervening decisions.  In April 2010, the Supreme Court vacated the decision of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals that had upheld these rules, and remanded the case for further consideration in light ofCitizens United and “the Solicitor General’s suggestion of mootness.”  Today’s decision followed this remand.

On October 18, 2010, the Legal Center, along with Democracy 21, filed an amici brief with the district court supporting the challenged regulation and policy.  Prior to the remand, the Legal Center filed two amici briefs in the case dating back to 2008.