Citizens United doesn't have to show film's donors

AP News
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Posted: Oct 14, 2014 8:54 PM

DENVER (AP) — A federal appeals court has ruled that a conservative group can air a movie it has produced about Colorado politics without disclosing its financers.

The Denver Post reports (http://dpo.st/ZYudUS ) the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals' 3-0 ruling released Tuesday allows Virginia-based Citizens United to move forward with its film, "Rocky Mountain Heist." The movie is about people the group says have influenced Colorado's political swing to the left over the past decade.

Citizens United, which won the federal landmark case about campaign finance disclosure in 2010, sued after Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler said the movie fell under state campaign finance laws. A federal judge in September agreed the movie was electioneering that required disclosure.

But Citizens United argued the film deserved the same free-speech protections as traditional media and liberal documentary filmmakers.

"Our film and its message are at the core of political speech protected by the First Amendment," said David Bossie, the group's president. "For far too long Colorado's campaign finance laws have burdened some speakers while protecting others. Today's ruling is an important first step in overturning this discriminatory law."

The appeals court ruled that while the movie is exempt from disclosure, the Secretary of State's Office could require disclosure for ads about it, if the ads name a candidate and make a case for support or defeat.

The Secretary of State's office on Tuesday reiterated that campaign finance rules are derived from vague parts of the Colorado constitution, and that the office is required to spend time and money defending cases, including those with a probable chance of losing in the federal courts.

Citizens United hopes to show the film on cable TV, on a website for the film and possibly at other venues before the Nov. 4 election.

Bossie has said the organization was fighting on the same principles that won before the U.S. Supreme Court in 2010 after the Federal Election Commission said a movie about Hillary Clinton was "electioneering communication."

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Information from: The Denver Post, http://www.denverpost.com