9th Circuit Panel Upholds Hawaii Ban on Campaign Contributions by Government Contractors

A important unanimous decision by Judge Fisher (joined by Kozinski and Watford) in the 9th Circuit as a challenge to the federal contractor ban remains pending. The 9th Circuit held the ban satisfied exacting scrutiny, even after McCutcheon, and even though it is a ban, rather than a limit on contributions, citing the danger of pay to play.

The bulk of the opinion also upheld a variety of reporting, disclaimer, and disclosure requirements required by Hawaii law. And the court included dicta affirming the special importance of disclosure in the Citizens United era:

Although not directly relevant to A-1’s challenge – because A-1’s political activities are self-financed and it receives no contributions – we also note the heightened importance of noncandidate committee disclosure requirements now that the limit on contributions to noncandidate committees has been permanently enjoined. A single contributor may provide thousands of dollars to independent committees, and yet avoid disclosing its identity if the committee makes all the expenditures itself. The noncandidate committee definition acts to ensure that the contributor’s identity will be disclosed to the voting public. Hawaii’s efforts to provide transparency would be incomplete if disclosure was not required in such circumstances.

The opinion is in A-1 A-Lectrician v. Snipes.


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