Supreme Court's Decision Upholds Disclosure as DISCLOSE Act Moves Forward in Congress: Statement of Executive Director J. Gerald Hebert
Today's 8-1 decision in Doe v. Reed is an encouraging development for our democracy, especially after recent decisions from the Supreme Court turning the clock back a century on campaign finance laws.
The decision marks the second major victory for disclosure from the High Court in a year. A little noted but important element of the controversial Citizens United v. FEC decision was the Supreme Court's 8-1 ruling to uphold the challenged disclosure provisions in the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act. Today, again by a wide margin, the Supreme Court has made clear that disclosure of those signing referenda petitions does not on its face violate the First Amendment.
Opponents of campaign finance laws, including disclosure provisions, repeatedly claim that Congress can make "no law" that regulates political speech and have used that argument to claim that campaign finance laws, including disclosure provisions, are unconstitutional. Today's ruling flatly rejects this overbroad claim. But the challenge to disclosure in Doe v. Reed is only the first of a string of lawsuits challenging all forms of political disclosure that are making their way through the courts, cases that seek to make anonymity the coin of the political realm.
Members of Congress considering the DISCLOSE Act should be encouraged by today's ruling from the Court, which highlights once again the public's right to know.
Even Justice Scalia, a frequent critic of campaign finance regulations, had encouraging words for proponents of disclosure in his concurrence:
"There are laws against threats and intimidation; and harsh criticism, short of unlawful action, is a price our people have traditionally been willing to pay for self governance. 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."