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High Court Denies Emergency Request to Stop Donor Disclosures in Campaigns

By William Vogeler, Esq. on September 19, 2018 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

In a victory for voters, the U.S. Supreme Court denied an emergency stay concerning secrecy of donors to political nonprofits.

Crossroads GPS, a nonprofit Republican group, tried to stop a lower court decision that ordered the disclosures. But the High Court denied the emergency request.

In Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington v. Federal Election Commission, a federal judge ordered the elections commission to come up with better disclosure rules. The U.S. Supreme Court basically said what she said.

Federal Election Commission

The plaintiffs, a watchdog group also known as CREW, demanded the Federal Election Commission disclose the names of donors who funded a $6 million campaign against Sen. Sherrod Brown.

The FEC declined and dismissed the claim, precipitating the federal lawsuit against the agency in 2016.

Judge Beryle Howell issued a ruling in August, striking a decades-old regulation against disclosure. As a result, the Star Tribune reported, nonprofits must disclose "dark money" donors giving more than $200.

The FEC filed a petition for an emergency stay of the ruling, but the Supreme Court rejected it. Now the case goes to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

"Valuable Information"

Chief Justice John Roberts had temporarily blocked the district court ruling, but a panel vacated it. Rick Hasen, writing for the Election Law Blog, said there were no dissents.

"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," he wrote.

"It does not solve all of the current disclosure problems, but this is a victory for transparency."

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