FEC Spells Out Disclosure Rules

Posted July 27, 2012 at 12:17pm

The Federal Election Commission today issued a statement outlining how it plans to comply with a federal court ruling that ordered the commission to tighten up its disclosure rules.

The statement comes four months after a federal district court agreed with Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) that the commission’s disclosure rules for so-called electioneering communications were too lax and at odds with campaign finance law. Electioneering communications are broadcast ads that picture or name a federal candidate in the window before an election.

The FEC statement spells out that political players running such ads must report the name and address of any donor of $1,000 or more. The requirement is effective retroactively to March 30 of this year.

The mandate will hold until the Van Hollen lawsuit is resolved on appeal or until the FEC writes new disclosure regulations, according to the commission’s statement.

Previous FEC regulations had required disclosure only of contributions specifically earmarked for the ads. Van Hollen had challenged those rules in court, winning first in March in the U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia and then on appeal in May before a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Two intervening conservative groups have now appealed that May ruling to the full circuit court.

“The FEC’s announcement to follow the Court’s ruling is a welcome and necessary step forward,” Van Hollen said in a statement. “This lawsuit is one step forward in our fight to restore the integrity of our electoral process, and will shine an important light on some of the shadowy money that has flooded our elections.” He added that he will continue to fight for disclosure legislation, which was recently blocked in the Senate but that House Democrats continue to push despite uniform GOP opposition.

“This will eliminate any questions that people have about the disclosure that is now required,” Democracy 21 President Fred Wertheimer said. Van Hollen has signaled plans to also challenge the FEC’s disclosure regulations governing independent campaign expenditures, which he maintains also contain loopholes.