The Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit denied to stay on Monday to a group appealing a lower court ruling which found that the Federal Election Commission should close a loophole allowing non-profit "social welfare" groups running campaign commercials to keep the names of their donors secret.
Rep. Chris van Hollen, the plaintiff in the case, had argued that the FEC is willfully misinterpreting the disclosure requirements McCain-Feingold by issuing a 2007 rule which allowed donors to remain secret as long as donations technically weren't for specific advertisements. The law said that "all contributors" to nonprofit groups should be disclosed.
On a two to one vote, the D.C. Court of Appeals turned down a request to stay the lower court's ruling.
“This is a very important victory in the battle to end secret contributions being funneled into federal elections,” Democracy 21 President Fred Wertheimer, one of the lawyers involved in the case, said in a statement. “This case represents the first major breakthrough in the effort to restore for the public the disclosure of contributors who are secretly providing massive amounts to influence federal elections."
Law professor Rick Hasen writes that 501c4 groups could create "new separate funds to run these ads, so that the groups need disclose the names of only those donors funding these ads (rather than all of their donors)." Hasen says he believes the case will ultimately end up in the Supreme Court, "where the outcome may be different."