Independence Institute v. Williams, No. 14-1463 (10th Cir. 2016)Annotate this Case
The Independence Institute, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation, conducts research and educates the public on public policy. During the 2014 Colorado gubernatorial campaign, the Institute intended to air an advertisement on Denver-area television that was critical of the state’s failure to audit its new health care insurance exchange. The Institute was concerned that the ad qualified as an “electioneering communication” under the Colorado Constitution and, therefore, to run it the Institute would have to disclose the identity of financial donors who funded the ad. The Institute resisted the disclosure requirement, arguing that the First Amendment prohibited disclosure of donors to an ad that is purely about a public policy issue and is unrelated to a campaign. The Tenth Circuit court of Appeals affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment to the Colorado Secretary of State. "Colorado’s disclosure requirements, as applied to this advertisement, meet the exacting scrutiny standard articulated by the Supreme Court in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. . . . The provision serves the legitimate interest of informing the public about the financing of ads that mention political candidates in the final weeks of a campaign, and its scope is sufficiently tailored to require disclosure only of funds earmarked for the financing of such ads."