Appeals court sides with FEC on donor disclosure rule

Appeals court sides with FEC on donor disclosure rule

The nation’s second most powerful court on Thursday sided with the Obama administration in Rep. Chris Van HollenChristopher (Chris) Van HollenSenate passes sanctions bill targeting China over Hong Kong law House passes bill to sanction Chinese banks over Hong Kong security law D.C.-area lawmakers push for analysis before federal agencies can be relocated MORE’s (D-Md.) challenge to the Federal Election Commission’s (FEC) donor disclosure rule.

In a unanimous ruling, a three-judge panel at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit upheld a rule that requires corporations and unions to disclose all donations totaling $1,000 or more that were “made for the purpose of furthering electioneering communications.”

Van Hollen argued it violates the text of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA). The law, which was passed in 2002, required all donations of $1,000 to be disclosed.


The D.C. Cicuit's decision Thursday reverses the lower court’s ruling that tossed out the rule. In delivering the opinion of the court, Judge Janice Rogers Brown said Congress gave the FEC the authority to decide whether corporations and unions should be required to disclose every person who gave over $1,000 or more, or only those who gave for the purpose of influencing electioneering communications.

“Moreover, the FEC’s purpose requirement regulates electioneering communication disclosures in precisely the same way BCRA itself regulates express advocacy disclosures,” Brown wrote in the decision.

“In a neighboring provision, BCRA requires a person making an express advocacy expenditure to disclose only those ‘person[s] who made a contribution ... for the purpose of furthering an independent expenditure.’”

She said the FEC had simply opted for an approach that had already been endorsed by Congress in a related context.