[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit [official website] on Friday upheld [opinion, PDF] a Mississippi campaign finance law that requires disclosure of political contributions. The Mississippi campaign finance law [text] states that a person or group who contributes more than $200 to any ballot initiative must file a financial report with the Mississippi Secretary of State. The plaintiffs challenging the state law argued that the disclosure of contributions is unconstitutional because it limits their freedom of speech and association rights protected under the First Amendment [text]. The Fifth Circuit stated that the disclosure law was not such a burden on the plaintiffs’ constitutional rights to warrant a strict scrutiny analysis. The three-judge panel compared the Mississippi law to similar state laws throughout the country and stated that voters and other state officials “have an interest in knowing who is lobbying for their vote.”
Political donations and campaign finance [JURIST backgrounder] have been highly litigious issues in the US, especially since the 2010 US Supreme Court [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 September the US District Court for the District of Colorado [official website] denied a request [JURIST report] 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 la]. In April the US Supreme Court ruled [JURIST report] 5-4 in McCutcheon v. FEC [SCOTUSblog backgrounder] that limits on overall campaign contributions by individual donors are unconstitutional. The decision in McCutcheon readdressed US Supreme Court case Buckley v. Valeo [opinion] which ruled that limits on contributions implicate First Amendment interests but that limits may be imposed so long as they are narrowly drawn to further a compelling governmental interest.