News & Politics

Judge's Ruling Disallowing Anonymous Donors to Political Groups 'a Game Changer'

(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)

An FEC rule that allowed donors to political groups to remain anonymous has been invalidated by a federal judge.

The judge, Beryl A. Howell, wrote that the FEC failed to follow congressional intent in fashioning the rule. Politico quotes Howell, “The challenged regulation facilitates such financial ‘routing,’ blatantly undercuts the congressional goal of fully disclosing the sources of money flowing into federal political campaigns, and thereby suppresses the benefits intended to accrue from disclosure …”

Benefits there may be. But in the age of Trump, with the far left targeting individuals and groups who support conservative causes, the dampening effect on fundraising efforts on the right may be significant.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a watchdog group that brought the suit against the FEC, hailed the decision as a “major game changer” for political spending.

“This ruling looks like a major game changer,” Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) Executive Director Noah Bookbinder said in a statement. “Based on this ruling , the public should know a whole lot more about who is giving money for the purpose of influencing an election, and it will be much harder for donors to anonymously contribute to groups that advertise in elections.”

CREW sued the FEC after Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS, a 501(c) 4 offshoot of the former Bush aide’s Crossroads super PAC, failed to disclose the names of contributors behind its $6 million effort to defeat Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) in his 2012 race. A representative for Crossroads GPS did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Former FEC Commissioner Ann Ravel heralded the ruling as “groundbreaking” and one that addressed the concerns she and current commissioner Ellen Weintraub, both Democrats, had when they voted to investigate Rove’s group, but were overruled in a vote. Ravel said it is unusual for a federal court to not defer to the FEC’s interpretation, but that if the ruling stands it would be a major victory for those who want to see more disclosures.

“This is a great step forward in trying to get greater disclosure for who is influencing the election,” Ravel said.

The FEC now must issue a new rule, taking into account the judge’s decision.

The whole point of anonymity for donors was to protect them from backlash by individuals and groups who could target them, their employment, or even their families for harassment. The ruling won’t affect the left nearly as much as the right, making the playing field a little less fair.

Coming about 3 months before mid term election, the timing of this decision could hardly be worse for the right.