July 3, 2022

Report: Supreme Court donor disclosure ruling could open door to further campaign finance challenges

Like many leftist policies, campaign finance reform is often sold as a way to make things fairer during elections. Instead, the rules made it harder for some to raise money — but a new Supreme Court decision is about to change that.

In a 6-3 ruling, the Supreme Court upheld the right for some non-profit organizations to keep their donors confidential, according to The Hill. Experts speculate that this could lead to further challenges against campaign finance rules.

The ruling handed down Thursday split along party lines, with Republican-appointed judges siding with privacy rights for donors on First Amendment grounds. The dissenting opinion, written by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, claimed the ruling “marks reporting and disclosure requirements with a bull’s-eye.”

The decision stemmed from a lawsuit filed by Americans for Prosperity Foundation. The suit involves then-Attorney General of California Kamala Harris after her predecessor attempted to compel the group to share the names and addresses of top donors, Fox News reported.

Fearing that personal information could be leaked and weaponized against them by political enemies, the organization joined with many others in the lawsuit. This ruling at the high court overturns a lower-court decision.

Although AFP and its allies consider it a win, those who press for strict campaign finance disclosure have sounded the alarm. A so-called “crosspartisan” political reform group Issue One said the ruling “threatens the future of robust disclosure regimes” and hopes “the Court does not apply this reasoning to disclosure associated with politically active groups” in a statement by Executive Director Meredith McGehee.

“We are now on a clear path to enshrining a constitutional right to anonymous spending in our democracy, and securing an upper hand for dark-money influence in perpetuity,” Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) similarly lamented in a Thursday statement. Democratic lawmakers have been doubling down on campaign finance rules.

A provision in the failed For the People Act election overhaul would have required donors of $10,000 to disclose donor information. This bill was blocked by Republicans in the Senate after passing the House of Representatives.

That failure left David Keating, president of the Institute for Free Speech, worried about the future of campaign finance restrictions. “I think even before this decision, it would have been vulnerable,” Keating said about the legislation. “With the decision, it’s even more vulnerable.”

All of these rules are supposed to keep so-called “dark money” out of politics, but it comes at the expense of donors’ private information that could fall into the wrong hands. Americans have the right to free association, but publicizing who gives money to whom could jeopardize that.

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