Breaking News: Court Decision Could Lead to More Disclosure of Money Funding Election Ads

In a 31-page opinion, a federal district court in Van Hollen v. FEC has just ruled that the FEC’s rules implementing an important piece of McCain Feingold’s disclosure laws are improper.  Those rules narrow the circumstances in which money funding “electioneering communications” needs to be disclosed to the FEC.

While Super PACs are already must disclose their donors to run election ads, this is not true as to most campaign ads run by 501c4s, c6’s like the Chamber of Commerce and others.

It is not clear what will happen next.  Here are some possibilities.

1. The FEC will appeal, and the appellate court will reverse.

2. The FEC does not appeal, and tries very quickly to get new regulations out.

3. The FEC does not appeal, and gets no new regulations out, leading to questions, and possibly a request for an advisory opinion on what these groups must now disclose as to their contibutors.  The FEC could well deadlock on this question.

4. Groups will ignore the language of the statute, and reform groups will file complaints at the FEC against them for failing to disclose their contributors.

5. Someone will file a new suit in federal court claiming that the statute, as now construed by the court, violates the First Amendment speech and associational rights of contributors to these organizations.

Probably there are a few more possibilities.  Of course, this coming in the throes of the election season makes this all the more dicey.

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