Federal judge rules donor disclosure required for political documentary
Federal judge rules donor disclosure required for political documentary

[JURIST] The US District Court for the District of Colorado [official website] denied [order, PDF] on Monday a request by Citizens United [advocacy website] for a preliminary injunction to allow the conservative organization to air a political documentary without disclosing the film’s advertising donors as required by state law [text]. The documentary, Rocky Mountain Heist, which the group hopes to air before November’s elections, “concerns various Colorado advocacy groups and their impact on Colorado government and public policy.” Citizens United argued, on First Amendment [text, LII] grounds, that its organization should be considered a “press entity,” entitled to the same exemptions as traditional media outlets, which are not required to disclose their donors. Otherwise, the group argued, it would be the victim of “viewpoint-based discrimination.” The court disagreed stating that people should be able to “discern the private interests behind speech when determining how much weight to afford it.” Citizens United intends [press release] to appeal this ruling to the US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit [official website].

Political donations and campaign finance [JURIST backgrounder] have been highly litigious issues in the US, especially since the 2010 US Supreme Court’s [official website] ruling [JURIST report] in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (FEC) [SCOTUSblog backgrounder] permitting corporations to be considered individuals when contributing to election campaigns, in essence allowing for functionally unlimited donations to political campaigns. In June 2012 the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit [official website] ruled [JURIST report] that the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria [official website] erred in its May 2011 holding [JURIST report] that corporations can contribute directly to political campaigns asserting that the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United does not prevent limitations on direct contributions to candidates. Also in June 2012 the US Supreme Court struck down [JURIST report] a century-old campaign finance law in Montana that restricts the amount of money corporations can spend on campaigns, stating that Citzens United overruled such restrictions. In May 2011, the US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit [official website] upheld [JURIST report] a Minnesota campaign financing law prohibiting direct contributions to candidates and affiliated entities. The Minnesota law was being challenged by organizations that argued the law was in violation of the ruling in Citizens United. In April 2010 four months after Citizens United, a group of Senators introduced [JURIST report] legislation aimed at curbing foreign and corporate influence in elections. The bill was defeated [Center for Responsive Politics report] in September 2010.