Mitt Romney’s Commonwealth is the next target in this series of posts unearthing “junk disclosure” requirements. Alert readers will recall that such laws are analogous to “junk science” and provide voters with no useful information. Instead, they require political speakers to generate useless, confusing, or even misleading “information.”
Under Massachusetts law, a radio or television independent expenditure must include an onerous and windy disclaimer. So, suppose Bostonians for Democracy (BFD) wanted to run a radio advertisement advocating the defeat of Commonwealth Representative Khan and using thinly veiled references to Star Trek. Whether or not BFD is a corporation, its chief officer (however it might determine that person) must appear and say: “I am James Kirk, the Head Poobah of Bostonians for Democracy, and Bostonians for Democracy approves and paid for this message.” That takes about seven seconds—which is seven second of airtime BFD has to pay for (and seven seconds that add virtually nothing to the public’s understanding of BFD’s perspective, or the merits of its case against Khan).