Campaign Finance Reform

John Noble jnoble at DGSYS.COM
Thu Feb 8 17:42:09 PST 2001


At 3:39 PM -0500 2/8/01, Gary Allison wrote:
>Fourth, I believe a better alternative to bans and limits on campaign
>contributions is full disclosure requirements coupled with offers to
>provide any candidate willing to meet certain threshhold standards [raise
>$X in amounts less than $Y] with the public funding to run an effecient
>campaign.  This would provide more competition to so-called "mainstream"
>candidates without making taxpayers fund frivolous campaigns.  It would
>also not stifle anyone wishing to participate in political debates through
>candidates, parties, or mass media.
>--

Disclosure requirements raise a constitutional question regarding anonymous
speech. They clearly have the potential to suppress speech in the form of
contributions by people who cannot or will not make them publicly because
of their positions (like an oil company executive in Texas who privately
supported Gore). They were upheld in Buckley on the ground that they deter
"actual corruption" (which seems doubtful to me), and inform voters about
the sources of potential influence (without abating it). But the decision,
particularly inasmuch as it upholds the required disclosure of independent
expenditures, is hard to square with McIntyre.

What if the law *required* anonymity. All campaign contributions funneled
through an "anonymizer" -- an agency that receives and forwards the
contribution to the campaign. No "bundling" of contributions by private
organizations. You can contribute all you want, and even publicly claim to
have contributed when you didn't without fear of contradiction. The boss
can encourage contributions, but subordinates don't have to worry about
repercussions. The agency will even negotiate the check, and refund the
money upon request within two weeks, so you can show the candidate or your
boss the canceled check. The claims will exceed the contributions and the
candidate will never know for sure who gave what. Political advocacy
protected and quid pro quo thwarted.

Is required anonymity more or less problematic than required disclosure
under the First Amendment. Isn't it more "narrowly tailored" to the
"compelling interest"? Does the protection of speech include the right to
"influence"?

John Noble



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