SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A federal appeals court on Tuesday rejected efforts by a libertarian-leaning group in New Mexico to shield future financial contributions from public disclosure in defiance of requirements enacted by the city of Santa Fe.
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The 10th District Court of Appeals in Denver rejected a request by the Albuquerque-based Rio Grande Foundation to invalidate city campaign finance provisions as unconstitutional.
The dispute stems from a failed city ballot initiative in 2017 to tax sugary beverages and shore up preschool funding, marked by millions of dollars in campaign spending.
The Rio Grande Foundation issued an online video that was critical of the soda tax proposal, prompting an investigation into possible violations of the city’s campaign finance code.
The foundation complied with a city order and disclosed two relatively minor donations of $7,700. Later it sought to invalidate the city regulations, citing a “chilling effect” on political contributions and, thus, free speech.
The court noted in its ruling that “the mere concern that speech will not occur does not amount to an affirmative claim that the speech really will not occur.”
Foundation President Paul Gessing struck a defiant tone on the ruling, vowing to seek a rehearing.
“The decision was made due to a supposed lack of standing, which we strongly disagree with,” Gessing said in an email. “We won’t disclose our donors until or unless the court specifically demands we do so. We’ll continue to protect our donors’ privacy to the fullest extent of the law.”
The city’s defense was supported by several advocacy groups for transparency in political spending, including the Brennan Center for Justice, New Mexico Ethics Watch, the League of Women Voters and Common Cause.