The Brennan Center for Justice and a coalition of state and local organizations filed an amicus brief in the United States District Court for the District of New Mexico in support of a Santa Fe, New Mexico campaign finance disclosure law. The provision at issue passed in response to the growing influence of dark money in local elections, and requires individuals and entities who make expenditures on certain campaign communications to disclose the contributors who funded those communications. Plaintiff Rio Grande Foundation is suing 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 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. The brief also draws on research concerning the prevalence of dark money spending in state and local ballot elections, demonstrating that the law was an appropriate response to the growing problem of undisclosed spending in local contests.
The Brennan Center’s brief was filed with the assistance of pro bono counsel from the law firm Freedman Boyd Hollander Goldberg Urias & Ward P.A.