Limited Exemption Consistent with Court

CLC Staff
Jun 18, 2010
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The Supreme Court's Opinion in Citizens United makes it clear that the Court believes disclosure of the sources of funding for political ads during election campaigns is not only constitutional but desirable. Justice Kennedy stated that disclosure of the sources of funding of political advertising "provide[s] the electorate with information" and "insure[s] that the voters are fully informed about the person or group who is speaking." Eight of the nine Justices joined this portion of the Court's Opinion. This principle is embodied in the disclosure provisions of the DISCLOSE Act.

The following opinion piece appeared on National Journal's Under the Influence Blog on June 16, 2010 in response to question: Is NRA Exemption In Campaign Finance Bill Workable?

The Supreme Court's Opinion in Citizens United makes it clear that the Court believes disclosure of the sources of funding for political ads during election campaigns is not only constitutional but desirable. Justice Kennedy stated that disclosure of the sources of funding of political advertising "provide[s] the electorate with information" and "insure[s] that the voters are fully informed about the person or group who is speaking." Eight of the nine Justices joined this portion of the Court's Opinion. This principle is embodied in the disclosure provisions of the DISCLOSE Act currently before Congress. Now that the Supreme Court has given us unlimited corporate (and union) political speech in federal elections, Congress should do its job and give us full disclosure of the sources of that speech.

Groups who have opposed such disclosure now attack the new provision exempting certain donor reporting for huge , long-established, national organizations such as the NRA, AARP, and The Humane Society. The limited exemption for such well-known organizations, though, is consistent with the Court's campaign finance principles--no one knows who is really behind the anonymous spending of new groups with names like "Americans for A Better Country" that spring up and run political ads every election--but no one is confused by the agenda of the NRA, AARP and the Humane Society. Thus, requiring these few large groups to put their own names and CEOs on their ads, and fully report the amount of their spending, without requiring the listing of their enormous donor lists, does not deprive the voters of the information the court believed was essential to a functioning democracy. We know who these large groups are, and what their agenda is. That is not necessarily true of the hundreds of smaller groups that raise funds and run political advertising in elections--which is why requiring the listing of their political donors makes sense.

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