Skip Navigation
Court Case Tracker

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)