Press release

Demos Responds to First Circuit Opinion in National Organization for Marriage v. McKee

Boston, MA - Yesterday, the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit -- covering Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island -- issued a decision upholding Maine's campaign finance disclosure provisions, which had been challenged by the anti-gay marriage National Organization for Marriage.  In response, Lisa Danetz, Demos Senior Counsel, issued the following statement:

"We are extremely pleased that the First Circuit continues to recognize the important role played by campaign finance disclosure regulations in informing the citizenry to make political choices.  In the wake of Citizens United, we are living in a world of ever greater amounts of private money in our political system.  The majority of Americans want a system that does not allow concentrated wealth to dominate but rather that honors the equal voices of all.  The First Circuit rightly recognized the need for the citizenry to have the tools to assess the credibility and motives behind political messages received during a political campaign.

"As the First Circuit stated, disclosure laws 'require the divulgence of information to the public or the Commission, but do not directly limit speech' and therefore these laws were clearly constitutional.  Although the current Supreme Court has struck down or cast doubt on many other campaign finance regulations, it has made abundantly clear that disclosure laws remain vital to the functioning of our democracy.  

 "The First Circuit explained in quite a bit of detail why it is so important for the citizenry to have information about the source of political money and how it is to be spent.  Initially quoting the seminal Supreme Court case Buckley v. Valeo, the court stated:

'In a republic where the people are sovereign, the ability of the citizenry to make informed choices among candidates for office is essential.' . . ..'[Disclosure] allows voters to place each candidate on the political spectrum more precisely than is often possible solely on the basis of party labels and campaign speeches.  The sources of a candidate's financial support also alert the voter to the interests to which a candidate is most likely to be responsive and thus facilitate predictions of future performance in office.' . . .

In an age characterized by the rapid multiplication of media outlets and the rise of internet reporting, the 'marketplace of ideas' has become flooded with a profusion of information and political messages.  Citizens rely ever more on a message's source as a proxy for reliability and a barometer of political spin.  Disclosing the identity and constituency of a speaker engaged in political speech thus 'enables the electorate to make informed decisions and give proper weight to different speakers and messages.... Additionally, in the case of corporate or organizational speakers, disclosure allows shareholders and members to 'hold them accountable for their positions.'... In short, 'the First Amendment protects political speech; and disclosure permits citizens and shareholders to react to that speech in a proper way.'

We are gratified that the Court took its role seriously and tool such great pains to explain the continuing role and importance of disclosure of political spending to our citizens."

Demos submitted an amicus curiae brief to the First Circuit in NOM v. McKee on behalf of Maine Citizens for Clean Elections.  The amicus curiae brief is available here: http://bit.ly/orypy1

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