A Federal Election Commission rule on “independent expenditures,” which has allowed millions of dollars’ worth of campaign ads to air without disclosure of the donors funding them, can be challenged in court, a federal judge ruled
The FEC rule has been widely cited by nonprofit groups seeking to keep their donors secret while trying to influence federal elections through ads supporting or opposing candidates.
Numerous ad sponsors have responded to inquiries from the FEC by telling the agency that none of their donors had to be revealed because none gave money “for the purpose of furthering” a specific election-related expenditure. When this provision of its independent expenditure rule—11 C.F.R. Section 109.10(e)(1)(vi)—has been cited by ad sponsors, the FEC hasn’t questioned them further.
The March 22 preliminary court ruling came in a lawsuit filed by the liberal watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) regarding the FEC’s dismissal of an administrative enforcement action against Crossroads GPS, a conservative nonprofit that worked to elect Republicans. Judge Beryl Howell of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia denied an FEC motion to dismiss the challenge of its independent expenditure rule as time-barred.