They want to lurk in the shadows and attack LGBT families in secret, but the Constitution penned by our Founding Fathers and the laws passed under its authority mandate sunshine.
For the third time in two years a federal court has told Family Policy Institute of Washington that they can’t hide the identity of donors to their political action committee “Family PAC“. Yesterday a 3-judge panel from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit released a 23-page opinion affirming an earlier federal district court ruling that upheld Washington’s campaign donor disclosure laws.
Washington’s Public Disclosure Law and related code requires political committees to disclose the names and addresses of contributors giving more than $25, and in addition the occupations and employers of contributors giving more than $100. FPIW alleged that these laws are unconstitutional because potential donors to Family PAC “have indicated that they are unwilling to donate if Family PAC is required to report their name and address.” They offered no evidence to back up that claim, however.
In their opinion yesterday the Court of Appeals concluded that “the requirements impose only modest burdens on First Amendment rights, while serving a governmental interest in an informed electorate that is of the utmost importance.” That important governmental interest is in “allowing voters to ‘follow the money‘ behind ballot measures”. From the lower court’s ruling:
What is the government interest advanced by the disclosure statute and the regulations? It is the informational interest satisfied by allowing voters to follow the money – the ability for voters to know who it is that is trying to influence their vote. That interest is a vital interest of government and the people it serves. …The right to receive information is an inherent corollary of the right to free speech.
|Joseph Backholm, E.D. of FPIW and Family PAC campaign manager|
FPIW is an affiliate of Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council and is linked to National Organization for Marriage. NOM has been a major donor to FPIW’s past efforts. FPIW believes that “discrimination is not only appropriate, it is necessary for survival” and created Family PAC in 2009 to help finance anti-gay ballot measures. Family PAC’s campaign manager and treasurer is FPIW’s executive director Joseph Backholm.
The present case, Family PAC v. McKenna (10-35832), is just one in a string of related cases showing that the radical right is willing to sacrifice openness and transparency in government in order to try to achieve their anti-gay agenda. For example:
* In 2009 Protect Marriage Washington asked the state to exempt donors to their anti-gay referendum PAC from the disclosure laws. Their request was denied.
* In an effort to hide the identities of the signers of their anti-gay referendum petitions, Protect Marriage Washington initiated the Doe v. Reed lawsuit to try to persuade the courts to strike down public records laws anywhere in the country that require public disclosure of initiative or referendum petitions. The U. S. Supreme Court forcefully rejected PMW’s efforts in an 8-1 ruling in an earlier phase of the case and they continue to reject PMW’s ongoing efforts to black out the sun.
UPDATE (12/31): Based on some of the comments below, my post has apparently left the impression that Family PAC accepted donations without disclosing donor identity. FPIW made the following statement in their original complaint: “Family PAC will report the names and addresses of contributors as long as Washington law requiring such reporting is not enjoined.” Since the law was never enjoined and no donations were reported by Family PAC, then there should be no donations to disclose because there apparently were no donations made to the PAC at all.
* Eyman and Bopp suffer big losses
* How many times does NOM want to lose in Washington?
* Federal judge rebukes Reject 71 but can’t stop wave of Colorado cash
* NOM and The Family PAC file for special rights on the same day