-By Tom Schoenberg and Jonathan D. Salant
March 31, 2012- The U.S. Federal Election Commission overstepped its authority by allowing groups that give money for election advertising to withhold the names of their donors from the public, a federal judge ruled.
U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jacksonin Washington yesterday threw out FEC regulations adopted in 2007 that let organizations and nonprofit groups keep secret the names of donors who pay for pre-election ads. She said the regulations clashed with requirements of the 2002 campaign finance law known as McCain-Feingold that groups report their ad spending to the commission.
“When the agency determined in this instance that the statute should be revised in light of legal developments, it undertook a legislative, policy making function that was beyond the scope of its authority,” Jackson said in her 31-page ruling.
Democratic Representative Chris Van Hollen of Maryland sued the FEC last year, arguing that McCain-Feingold requires full disclosure of funders who contribute $1,000 or more for so- called electioneering communications. Those messages are broadcast or cable ads identifying a federal candidate within 30 days of a primary or 60 days of the general election.
“This is good news for our democracy and for voters –this victory will compel the FEC to require enhanced disclosures of the funders of campaign-related advertisements,” Van Hollen said in a statement.