Rio Grande Foundation v. Oliver challenges New Mexico donor disclosure laws that threaten Americans’ right to privacy and silences their voices in policy discussions.
This article first appeared December 16, 2019 in Santa Fe New Mexican.
Two conservative groups have sued New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver in federal court in an effort to hide the identities of donors who fund political issue advertisements.
The Albuquerque-based Rio Grande Foundation and Illinois Opportunity Project argue that a new state law requiring stricter financial disclosure requirements for political issue advertisements is unconstitutional.
Although such issue-based advertisements are by law prohibited from expressly advocating for or against a specific candidate, they nonetheless influence elections.
“We believe very strongly that there is and should be a room and a place for donor privacy in this fractious, easily-offended world of ours when it comes to politics,” Gessing said.
The lawsuit cites as precedent a 1958 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that sided with the NAACP when Alabama sought to stop the civil rights group from conducting business in the state. Alabama also fought to disclose the identities of NAACP members — a move that Justice John Marshall Harlan II argued would have subjected members to “economic reprisal, loss of employment, threat of physical coercion, and other manifestations of public hostility.”
The backdrop of the landmark court ruling is a bloody, racist history of more than 4,000 lynchings of black Americans from 1835 through 1964 and a legacy of slavery.