After Yes on 8 donors filed an injunction asking the State of California to withhold the names of last-minute donors to their campaign, a federal judge ruled yesterday that the public has a right to know who donated to their ballot measures. The names will be released Monday. The plaintiffs argued that Yes on 8 donors would face harassment and boycotts, but the state blew that argument out of the water, pointing out that of the nine total harassment complaints filed relating to Prop. 8, only one was from someone who had contributed to the campaign. For a bunch of righteous, homophobic bigots, the Yes on 8 people sure are a bunch of whiny wimps.
“U.S. District Judge Morrison England Jr. sided with the state. In his ruling from the bench, England said California’s campaign disclosure laws are intended to protect the public and are especially important during expensive initiative campaigns.
“If there ever needs to be sunshine on a political issue, it is with a ballot measure,” England said.
He said many campaign committees have vague names, obscuring their intent. The public would have no way of knowing who is behind the campaigns unless they can see who’s giving money, he said.
“This clearly is a victory for the people of California and disclosure. The commission will continue to vigorously defend any suit brought against disclosure of campaign statements,” said Roman Porter, executive director of the California Fair Political Practices Commission…
State attorneys said the plaintiffs did not qualify for a narrow exception to campaign-donation disclosure laws that the U.S. Supreme Court carved out in 1982. That ruling was designed to protect tiny groups such as the Ohio Socialist Workers Party, which had a history of being harassed by both government officials and individuals, the state said.
“This exception does not apply to a large, well-financed organization representing the views of several mainstream organizations such as the plaintiffs, who had over 36,000 contributors, garnered nearly $30 million in campaign contributions and whose ballot measure was passed by a vote of over 52 percent of the voters,” Scott Hallabrin, general counsel for the FPPC, said in a statement.
Granting the exemption sought by the plaintiffs could lead to a situation in which no campaign committee involved in a fight over a controversial ballot measure could be required to disclose its donors because of the potential for some form of harassment.
That would deny voters the right to know who was behind those campaigns, the state said in court papers.
The state also questioned whether donating to the yes-on-Proposition 8 campaign was likely to trigger harassment and discourage people from donating to any future battle over same-sex marriage.
Only one of the nine incidents of harassment cited by the plaintiffs involved a person who just contributed to the ballot measure. The others had engaged in other types of support, such as speaking at campaign rallies, posting yard signs or using bumper stickers.
Only one of the targets of harassment cited by the plaintiffs said they would not donate again if there was another ballot fight over gay marriage. “