Washington Ballot Donors Public Info

Referendum 71 supporter Washington StateA federal appeals court ruled donors names and addresses are public record in a 2009 Washington state ballot measure to extend domestic partner rights to same-sex couples.

Washington’s election law requires political committees that weigh in on ballot measures to disclose the name and address of contributors who give more than $25 and the employer and occupation of those who give $100 or more.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld those two provisions but did strike down one other.  That portion of the opinion nixed the rule that banned political committees from accepting contributions of $5,000 or more from a single person within 21 days of a general election. 

The 2009 ballot measure, known as Proposition 71, allowed same-sex couples to register as domestic partners, but the relationships were not granted the status of marriages.  It was designed as a public vote on a law the state legislature had already passed.  It conferred the same rights to domestic partners as those of married couples. It was approved by voters by 53-47 percent

 The lawsuit was brought by the Family PAC, a group that describes itself as representing “traditional family values,” which opposed disclosure of names and addresses of donors.

The Family PAC opposed Prop. 71 and it alleged in court papers that donors would not contribute if they were required to disclose their names and addresses.

It also opposed the $5,000 limit, saying it would have received $60,000 and $20,000 from the Focus on the Family group during the campaign.

The court held that while disclosure may burden the First Amendment, the burden “is modest.”

“Family PAC has not presented evidence suggesting that Washington’s disclosure laws actually and meaningfully deter contributors,” wrote Judge Raymond Fisher for the majority.

Case:  Family PAC v. McKenna,  No. 10-35893

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