Charleston Post and Courier: Dark money bill chills free speech (In the News)

Charleston Post and Courier: Dark money bill chills free speech

By Eric Wang

Senate Bill 255 appears to require an “independent expenditure committee” to file ongoing campaign finance reports as a political “committee” – commonly known as “PAC.” The bill’s extreme ambiguity on this point is, in and of itself, a fatal flaw. What is clear is that the bill intends to publicly out the donors to such groups – even if their donations were completely unrelated to any political purpose. Names, addresses and employer information would have to be reported not only for donors, but also for a group’s employees and vendors.

“Not surprisingly,” the Post and Courier editorial noted approvingly, the state officials pushing this bill are ones whose legislative initiatives advocacy groups have opposed. We fail to see the virtue here. Yes, it is “not surprising” that certain public officials would lash out at citizen groups that do not fall in line with those officials’ agendas. But far from promoting ethics, a bill to intimidate those groups into silence is a recipe for more corruption.

Citizens who want to know donors’ identities are free to discount messages from groups that do not provide that information. Forcing disclosure, however, deprives citizens of the chance to hear from groups that would be silenced by bills like SB 255.