Chief Justice Roberts Halts Campaign Finance Ruling

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Chief Justice John Roberts stepped in Saturday to halt a federal judge’s order that a conservative politico group said threatened to discourage so-called independent expenditures by broadening the circumstances in which anonymous donors could be exposed.

Roberts acted Saturday after a three-judge D.C. Circuit panel turned down the same arguments for a stay earlier in the day.

U.S. District Court Chief Judge Beryl A. Howell in August issued a ruling invalidating a Federal Election Commission regulation that has allowed donors to so-called dark-money groups to remain anonymous.

The 38-year-old FEC regulation in dispute requires disclosure only when a donor designates his or her money for a specific independent expenditure, but does not require donors’ identities be made public under other conditions, including when they seek to support or oppose an individual candidate.

After Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS failed to disclose the names of contributors behind its effort to defeat Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown in 2012, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington filed a complaint and then a lawsuit challenging the regulation for not implementing what the law requires.

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