A federal judge has struck down a Federal Election Commission ruling that allowed groups to pay for advertising in the run-up to elections while keeping their donors anonymous.
The decision could force groups that air “electioneering communications” – ads broadcast close to an election that don’t expressly advocate for a federal candidate but often stop just short – to now disclose their donors.
U.S. District Judge Amy Berman said on Friday that the FEC overstepped and “cannot unilaterally decide to take on a quintessentially legislative function” in ruling that corporations and others do not have to reveal who financed such ads.
The case was brought by Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., who sued the FEC, arguing that the nation’s 2002 campaign-finance law required full disclosure of those who contribute at least $1,000 for “electioneering communications” – ads broadcast within 30 days of a federal-office primary, or within 60 days of the general election.
After the legal victory, one of the attorneys on the case, Fred Wertheimer, president of the watchdog group Democracy 21, signaled that the legal team would seek to press the issues of disclosure further in the courts. Wertheimer said in a statement that he will consult with Van Hollen about filing a second lawsuit to take on lax disclosure requirements for independent expenditure groups, better known as super PACs.