RGF to continue fight against 2019 campaign finance law

As media reports have noted, RGF lost a ruling in federal court recently over a 2019 campaign finance law. The Foundation is being represented by the Liberty Justice Center.

The 2019 law requires Rio Grande Foundation to disclosure its donors if it publishes its Freedom Index legislative vote tracking tool within a certain period of time before an election, something the Foundation is not otherwise legally required to do as a 501(c)(3) charitable organization that engages in issue advocacy and does not engage in campaign advocacy for or against candidates or ballot initiatives.

  • The Freedom Index which tracks New Mexico state legislators’ floor votes on bills that address issues important to the Foundation.
  • Rio Grande Foundation challenged this law in federal court as a violation of the First Amendment.
  • The Supreme Court has long distinguished between election advocacy and issue advocacy. Although the government may generally require donor disclosure for election advocacy, the Court has generally found that compelled disclosure for issue advocacy is protected by the First Amendment.
  • For the law to be constitutional, it has to serve an important governmental interest and be “narrowly tailored” to that interest.
  • Rio Grande Foundation argued that the forced disclosure of donors for ads that simply mention a candidate or ballot initiative was not narrowly tailored to the state’s interest in informing voters about who is spending and receiving money to support or oppose a candidate or ballot issue.
  • The New Mexico District Court issued a 40-page opinion on March 29, 2024, upholding the law, finding that the forced disclosure requirement was legally sufficient to serve the state’s informational interest.
  • The Rio Grande Foundation is now considering filing an appeal to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals seeking review of the district court’s opinion.

Campaign Finance and the Supreme Court