Election Law

Supreme Court denies emergency stay regarding secrecy of donors to political nonprofits

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The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday denied a petition to grant an emergency stay on a ruling that tossed out federal election regulation allowing nonprofit groups to keep donors secret.

The New York Times, the Washington Post and the Associated Press have coverage.

The ruling by the Federal District Court in Washington D.C. requires that nonprofits placing advertisements in support or opposition of candidates must identify individuals who donated more than $200 and strikes decades-old Federal Election Commission regulation, the Times and Post report.

The lawsuit was filed by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a watchdog group also known as CREW, against the FEC and Crossroads GPS. It stems from a complaint CREW filed six years ago asking that donors who funded a $6 million Crossroads campaign against Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, be revealed, according to the Post.

FEC deadlocked on its decision and to investigate Crossroads and dismissed the complaint in 2015. CREW filed the federal lawsuit against the agency in 2016.

Chief U.S. District Judge Beryl A. Howell issued her ruling Aug. 3. She gave the FEC 45 days to develop new regulations requiring more donor disclosure. Her ruling will be appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, the Post reports.

Tuesday’s order by the high court vacates one entered Saturday by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., who temporarily blocked the district court ruling, according to the Times. There were no dissents in the Tuesday’s order, writes University of California law and political science professor Rick Hasen at Election Law Blog.

“This is an important decision which will help insure that voters have valuable information they need in evaluating advertising which is unquestionably aimed at trying to influence how they vote in elections. It does not solve all of the current disclosure problems, but this is a victory for transparency,” Hasen wrote.

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