January 11, 2017–State Policy Network joined with twenty-four state think tanks in an amicus brief filed with the Supreme Court of the United States in support of the appellant in Independence Institute v. Federal Election Commission.
The case has important implications for First Amendment law—asking whether the government can require a private, nonpartisan group, engaged in genuine discussion of public policy, to publicly disclose the identity of its financial supporters.
As described by The Buckeye Institute whose President Robert Alt co-authored the brief, “The government claims that because an ad by Independence Institute referenced specific candidates within 60 days of he election, the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA) requires Independence Institute to disclose its entire list of donors to the government.”
The brief argues that the BCRA’s definition of “electioneering communications” sweeps well beyond partisan activity and encompasses the bona fide exchange of ideas, where expression is completely divorced from the outcome of the election.
In one of its roles as a defender of the network, State Policy Network combats donor disclosure rules that stifle free speech and silence dissent. Democracy depends on peaceful debate provided by free speech and the right of privacy is essential. No one should be forced to be on a government list and subjected to fear of harassment or retaliation for supporting organizations and ideas they believe in.