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Rio Grande Foundation v. City of Santa Fe, et al.

Rio Grande Foundation v. City of Santa Fe, et al. is a suit that challenges a campaign finance disclosure law in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Last Updated: July 6, 2020
Published: July 19, 2018

Case Back­ground

The Bren­nan Center for Justice and a coali­tion of state and local organ­iz­a­tions filed an amicus brief in the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit in support of a Santa Fe, New Mexico campaign finance disclos­ure law. The provi­sion at issue requires indi­vidu­als and entit­ies who make expendit­ures on certain campaign commu­nic­a­tions on ballot meas­ures to disclose the contrib­ut­ors who funded those commu­nic­a­tions. Plaintiff-Appel­lant Rio Grande Found­a­tion sued the City of Santa Fe and the City Ethics and Campaign Review Board, contend­ing that the law’s disclos­ure require­ments for advocacy support­ing or oppos­ing muni­cipal ballot propos­i­tions chills free speech.  

The Bren­nan Center’s brief high­lights ways in which campaign trans­par­ency advances the core goals of the First Amend­ment. It also discusses a body of social science research demon­strat­ing that under­stand­ing the interests behind a ballot initi­at­ive helps the public to make decisions in line with their prior­it­ies. Trans­par­ency meas­ures like Santa Fe’s law there­fore provide key cues to voters. Not only has the Supreme Court repeatedly held that such meas­ures are consti­tu­tional, but it also has recog­nized that disclos­ure furthers the First Amend­ment’s core object­ive of foster­ing enlightened self-govern­ment. Finally, the brief draws on research concern­ing the preval­ence and grow­ing threat of foreign inter­fer­ence in U.S. elec­tion campaigns, demon­strat­ing that the law is needed to address seri­ous prob­lems confront­ing our demo­cracy.

The Bren­nan Center’s brief was filed with the assist­ance of pro bono coun­sel from Ruth Anne French-Hodson at Sharp Law LLP.

The Bren­nan Center previ­ously filed a brief with many of the same organ­iz­a­tions explor­ing similar themes in the United States District Court for the District of New Mexico. That brief was filed with the assist­ance of pro bono coun­sel from the law firm Freed­man Boyd Hollander Gold­berg Urias & Ward P.A.

To read the Bren­nan Center’s briefs in this case, as well as other mater­i­als, see below.

Appeals Court:

Amicus Brief of the Bren­nan Center et al. in Support of Defend­ants-Appellees (July 2, 2020)

Brief for Defend­ants-Appellees (June 26, 2020)

Plaintiff-Appel­lant’s Open­ing Brief (May 5, 2020)


District Court:

District Court Memor­andum Opin­ion and Order (Janu­ary 29, 2020)

Amicus Brief of the Bren­nan Center et al. in Support of Defend­ants (July 18, 2018)