Even as the nationwide grassroots rebellion sparked by the Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission continues to spread, citizens concerned that our democracy is being auctioned off to secretive, unaccountable interests are getting some backup from the lower federal courts. On Monday afternoon, a panel of the DC Circuit Court of Appeals refused to stay the opinion of the district court that effectively closed – for the time being, at least — a regulatory loophole that allowed wealthy individuals and corporations funding so-called “issue ads” in the lead-up to an election to avoid disclosure, so long as they gave to “charitable” non-profit groups started by “philanthropists” like Republican political strategist Karl Rove.
Last month, a lower court found that the 2007 Federal Election Commission (FEC) regulation that created the loophole “arbitrarily and capriciously” undermined the law’s clear intent to force disclosure, one that even the Citizens United ruling affirmed. By declining to stay that ruling, and finding in the process that it will likely be upheld when it is argued on its merits this fall, the appeals court ensured that donors of more than $1,000 for electioneering communications previously shielded from the public eye are going to have to face disclosure.
This week’s ruling comes in the midst of a loud wave of shareholder activism demanding that corporate leaders stop meddling in electoral politics, and to at least fully disclose what they’re up to if they continue.