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InsiderOnline Blog: April 2014

Disclosure Laws Empower the Bullies

The ouster of Brendan Eich from Mozilla illustrates the dark side of disclosure laws, notes Hans von Spakovsky:

As the Heritage Foundation previously pointed out, other supporters of Proposition 8 in California have been subjected to harassment, intimidation, vandalism, racial scapegoating, blacklisting, loss of employment, economic hardships, angry protests, violence, death threats, and anti-religious bigotry. All committed by individuals claiming they are simply trying to gain “acceptance” and who complain about the supposed intolerance of society over their lifestyle.

What has been happening in recent years is no different then what racist government officials in Alabama were trying to do in the late 1950s when they subpoenaed the NAACP’s membership lists. Fortunately, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against the state in NAACP v. Alabama (1958), holding that the state’s actions violated the Fourteenth Amendment and interfered with the free associational rights of the NAACP’s members.

While campaign finance reformers are constantly touting the benefits of the disclosure of political contributions as a means of preventing corruption, they fail to explain how that objective is served by requiring disclosure of donations in referendum campaigns. There is some logic in disclosure of contributions to candidates who then have the ability to initiate, support, or pass legislation that may benefit contributors if they are elected. But no such logic attaches to donations against or in support of ballot propositions that are approved by all of the registered voters of a state. There is no candidate or potential legislator who can somehow be “corruptly” influenced through contributions.

Moreover, the ability and right to engage in anonymous political speech and activity – and making contributions is a form of political speech – used to be considered common sense. The Federalist Papers were published under pseudonyms and one of the most famous and stirring pieces of writing in American history – Thomas Paine’s Common Sense – was first published anonymously because of the danger to its author for publishing such revolutionary ideas. The same threats those authors and others throughout our history have faced for expressing ideas not in conformity with the ruling passions of the day are today being faced by Americans like Brendan Eich. [The Foundry, April 3]

Posted on 04/04/14 09:17 PM by Alex Adrianson

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