WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, in a win for political transparency, the U.S. Supreme Court denied a petition for certiorari seeking to hear an appeal in Rio Grande Foundation v. City of Santa Fe. Campaign Legal Center (CLC) served as counsel to the city defendants in the Supreme Court proceedings.
“Voters in Santa Fe, and in every municipality, have a right to know who is spending to influence ballot measure campaigns. We applaud the Supreme Court for denying review in this case and leaving the decision below in place,” said Paul Smith, senior vice president of Campaign Legal Center. “Special interests often run elections ads that are deliberately misleading, and today’s ruling means Santa Fe voters will be able to weigh the credibility of those ads and cast an informed vote.”
The challenged disclosure provision requires “event-driven” reporting: whenever a person or entity spends above a certain threshold to support or oppose a city ballot proposition, the person is required to disclose that spending, as well as certain donors who contributed for the purpose of funding it. The ordinance was challenged by the Rio Grande Foundation (RGF), an Albuquerque nonprofit that regularly participates in legislative and policy advocacy in New Mexico.
RGF’s constitutional challenge was rejected by the U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico, and a subsequent appeal to the U.S. Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals was dismissed on standing grounds. The Supreme Court’s denial of certiorari leaves the city’s important transparency provision in place.
CLC is pleased to see the Supreme Court refuse yet another challenge to campaign finance transparency. The Court has long recognized that disclosure is a constitutional means of protecting voters’ right to know about the sources of election-related spending.