Two courts weighed in on Washington's campaign finance rules for initiative campaigns last week.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on October 12 upheld a lower court ruling that validated the state's disclosure rules for campaign spending. A group called Human Life filed the suit, alleging that the state's requirements that the group register as a political action committee and report its fundraising and spending on issue ads opposing a 2008 assisted suicide initiative were unconstitutional. A three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit disagreed, writing that, “Access to reliable information becomes even more important as more speakers, more speech and thus more spending enter the marketplace, which is precisely what has occurred in recent years...Like campaigns for elected office, ballot initiatives are the subject of intense debate and, accordingly, greater expenditures to ensure that messages reach voters.”
On the same day, the U.S. Supreme Court weighed in on a different campaign finance case from Washington. Washington campaign finance law has a unique feature: during the last 21 days before an election (that clock started ticking on Oct. 12 for the Nov. 2 election), no single source can donate more than $5,000 in the aggregate to any political committee. This limit came under challenge by a group called Family PAC in 2009. They were organized to oppose Referendum Measure 71 in 2009, which proposed to expand the rights of same-sex domestic partners. A judge in 2009 refused to lift the ban in 2009 because the challenge came so late in the election that lifting the ban would be disruptive. After the election, the judge struck down the $5,000 limit. The state of Washington appealed to the 9th Circuit for a stay, and the court obliged. Tuesday's SCOTUS ruling upholds the 9th Circuit's stay. Look for a more protracted battle on this case after the election.
As always SCOTUSblog provides an excellent explanation as well as links to briefs.