U.S. Supreme Court lets campaign disclosure rules stand

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The U.S. Supreme Court has left standing Mississippi’s campaign financial disclosure rules for constitutional amendments attempted through a ballot initiative.

The nation’s highest court declined to review a U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals decision from November 2014, which backed the state’s requirement for registration and reporting by anyone or group spending more than $200 to further information about a ballot initiative. The decision was filed Thursday on the case docket in the U.S. District Court of North Mississippi.

“These reporting requirements … are not burdensome,” wrote Judge Gregg Costa of Texas for the three-judge panel in 2014. In his ruling, Costa referred to the late Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis’ observation that “sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants.”

In 2011, five Oxford area residents challenged the reporting law, claiming its rules were difficult for a small group like them. Plaintiffs were Gordon Vance Justice Jr., Sharon Bynum, Matthew Johnson, Alison Kinnaman and Stanley O’Dell.

Their attorney, Paul Avelar, with the Institute for Justice in Tempe, Ariz., said he and his clients are “very disappointed” in the ruling.

“The degree to which government can regulate even the smallest group is really an important question,” he said Thursday. “The U.S. Supreme Court needs to take up this issue. We’re just sorry it wasn’t ours.”

The Fifth Circuit’s decision overruled one by District Judge Sharion Aycock in Aberdeen, who had ruled for the plaintiffs.

The state appealed via Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann and Attorney General Jim Hood.

“Our agency is pleased the United States Supreme Court has again found Mississippi law constitutional,” Hosemann said late Thursday. “Our common sense requirement of disclosure to the public of funds raised for political purposes is reaffirmed.”