-By Paul Blumenthal
April 27, 2012- A court ruling requiring non-disclosing political groups — including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Koch brothers' Americans for Prosperity — to disclose their donors is one step closer to going into effect after a district court refused to stay its ruling in the face of an appeal.
On March 30, a district court ruled in Van Hollen v. Federal Election Commission (FEC) that a loophole in FEC rules that allowed certain independent group campaign efforts to keep private the names of donors was invalid and needed to be rewritten or reset to the original language.
On Friday, the court not only refused to stay the ruling, as requested by two intervening groups that are appealing the case, the Center for Individual Freedom and the Hispanic Leadership Fund, but the court also found that its ruling invalidated the FEC loophole, which required it to be immediately closed, resetting to the original language in the McCain-Feingold campaign reform law, known officially as the Bi-Partisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA).
District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson wrote, "Prior to the promulgation of the regulation that was struck down, there was a valid regulation in effect implementing the BCRA's disclosure requirement. … In light of the Court's ruling, that regulation now governs the disclosures required under the BCRA."
That language in the McCain-Feingold law required groups spending money on electioneering communications — certain campaign ads running 30 days before a primary election and 60 days before a general election– to disclose all donors giving $1,000 or more.
The appeal in the case is being made by the two intervenors after the FEC declined to appeal on Thursday.
"[T]he District Court's opinion in this case is thorough and well-reasoned, and does not have sufficient weakness to suggest it is likely to be reversed on appeal," the Democratic FEC commissioners Ellen Weintraub and Cynthia Bauerly wrote. "Nor does this case raise significant constitutional issues or require further guidance from the courts."