Wednesday Jolt: Public Disclosure

By Afternoon Jolt November 9, 2011

There were lots of election winners and losers yesterday, and we highlighted a bunch of them in our coverage of the results, the ironies, and also in Erica's close look at the $60 car tab loss.

But in the last 24 hours, there have also been two big victories for Washington State public disclosure law. We tried to flag one of them yesterday, posting a tweet around 5:30 that got buried as the night's returns came in.

Here's the long-lost tweet:

US district judge rejects anti-gay rights group motion to block release of R-71 sigs while he decides actual case.

Indeed, anti-gay rights group Protect Marriage Washington ran a referendum, R-71, in 2009 to repeal the state's domestic partnership law. They have tried to defy state disclosure law by saying supporters who signed the initiative petition would be in danger if their names were disclosed.. The case went  to the U.S. Supreme Court last year (with Republican AG Rob McKenna arguing against PMW that the names should be disclosed). In an 8-1 ruling, the Supreme Court upheld the state's disclosure in general, but gave PMW a chance by allowing for case by case exceptions; essentially challenging the group to show that individuals who signed would be in danger if their names were disclosed.

Last month, Tacoma Federal District Judge Judge Benjamin Settle ruled against PMW, saying their attempt to liken themselves to vulnerable civil rights activists was not a credible analogy. The group, whose attorney James Bopp is a fierce advocate of non-disclosure (he worked on the CitizensUnited case), appealed Settle's decision to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. They also sought an injunction against releasing the names during the appeal. The 9th Circuit kicked the injunction decision back to Settle. And yesterday, Settle said no to the injunction.

However, the 9th Circuit said PMW could file an emergency appeal to Settle's injunction ruling.

In similar news, the Federal District Court in Tacoma upheld the state's public disclosure law yesterday when it comes to campaign finance law. The court ruled that people involved in the special category of "grassroots activism"—that is, activists who spend money on homespun efforts to influence legislation—have to file with the public disclosure commission, say who the organizers are, and disclose all donors over $25 if the effort spends $500 over the course of a month or $1,000 in a 3-month period.

In her ruling, U.S. Magistrate Karen L. Strombom noted the importance of “informing the public as to the potential influences on the electoral and legislative processes – and the fact that doing so in regard to grassroots lobbying is an integral aspect of that interest.”
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