Disclosure

Shade from the Glare: The Case for Semi-Disclosure

In this essay, Bruce Cain takes an interesting look at what many seem to believe is “the most widely embraced element of election regulation”:  disclosure. Recognizing that disclosure is gaining traction in the evolution of election law and enforcement, Cain proposes that legislatures explore an option known as “semi-disclosure.” Essentially, a system of semi-disclosure would assign donor ID numbers to contributors and require full reporting, while making only some campaign donor information publicly available. Then, in the event of a corruption allegation, full disclosure information could be released to the public. In Cain’s view, this system has the opportunity to do the greatest good at reducing the likeliness of quid pro quo corruption while avoiding sacrificing protected political speech. As disclosure requirements continue to be discussed and debated across the United States, the author’s semi-disclosure proposal warrants consideration in policy circles.

For a response to the author’s semi-disclosure idea, please read the essay, “The Costs of Mandating Disclosure,” by John Samples.

Filed Under: Disclosure, Disclosure, Research, Disclosure, Enforcement, Disclosure, Enforcement

The Costs of Mandating Disclosure

In this essay, John Samples argues against the fundamental reasoning underlying campaign disclosure. According to Samples, mandating disclosure “both reflects and fosters the decline of self-government in the United States.” According to the essay, not only does forced disclosure fail to achieve its goals, but it has the opportunity to “raise the cost of political participation through political abuse and economic harms.” Samples also believes mandating disclosure deflects attention from the content of the message and instead undesirably shifts the focus to the source of the message’s funding. He acknowledges that Bruce Cain’s idea for “semi-disclosure” would be a noted improvement over the status quo in disclosure requirements, but ultimately rejects Cain’s idea because of the inability to ensure that disclosure information would not be used for political retribution.

For the original essay that this piece responds to, please read, “Shade from the Glare:  The Case for Semi-Disclosure,” by Bruce Cain.

Filed Under: Disclosure, Disclosure, Research, Disclosure, Enforcement, Expenditure, Disclosure, Enforcement, Expenditure

The DISCLOSE Act, Deliberation, and the First Amendment

In this policy briefing, John Samples discusses the potential impact of the DISCLOSE Act. The United States Supreme Court decided in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission that Congress may not prohibit spending on political speech by corporations. President Obama and several members of Congress have sharply criticized Citizens United, and Sen. Charles Schumer and Rep. Chris Van Hollen […]

Filed Under: Disclosure, Disclosure, Research

DISCLOSE Act—The Legislative “Fix” to Citizens United

On Jan. 21, 2010, the Supreme Court handed down its opinion in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. Since then, congressional critics of the Court’s broad holding have promised a legislative “fix.” These Members believe that the decision to recognize constitutional protection for corporate (and labor) independent expenditures in federal elections will have a pernicious effect on American politics. Accordingly, on April 29, 2010, Senator Charles Schumer and Representative Chris Van Hollen introduced the “DISCLOSE Act.”

The DISCLOSE Act contains two main features. First, it requires corporations to include certain notices in their expenditures and file additional disclosure reports. Second, the DISCLOSE Act identifies certain types of corporations that would not be permitted to make independent expenditures.Leaders in both the Senate and the House have promised expedited consideration of this legislation. The sponsors intend for it to enter into effect for much of the 2010 election cycle. 

Filed Under: Disclosure, Disclosure, Research, campaign finance, campaign finance disclosure, DISCLOSE, Disclose Act, Disclosure, Coordination, Disclosure, Independent Speech, Jurisprudence & Litigation, Coordination, Disclosure, Independent Speech, Jurisprudence & Litigation, Stand By Your Ad

Examining the Unconstitutionality of Montana’s Disclosure Laws

As political campaigns have become more expensive and sophisticated, Congress has increasingly regulated them, yet the Supreme Court has declared many aspects of that regulation unconstitutional. Recently, in Canyon Ferry Road Baptist Church of East Helena, Inc. v. Unsworth, the Ninth Circuit continued this deregulatory trend by holding that Montana’s election contribution disclosure requirements were unconstitutional as applied to de minimis campaign expenditures. Though the bureaucratic disclosure requirements of the regulation at issue may chill speech, an effect that the court correctly recognized, another feature of the regulation may chill speech even more: its third-party enforcement mechanism. Because the regulation allows third parties to bring complaints of campaign rule breaking, enforcement against minor parties may spring from questionable motives, result in disproportionate burdens, and ultimately militate against the public interest. Thus, whether using the information interest regulation rationale as a pretext for harassment or for mere democracy, such third-party enforcement of campaign disclosure requirements is problematic. This enforcement is especially troublesome given such laws’ disproportionate impact on minor players. Policymakers should recognize this issue when crafting disclosure laws, perhaps by raising the floor for disclosure of contributions when disclosure is urged by a third-party complainant.

Filed Under: Disclosure, Disclosure, Research, Disclosure, Disclosure, Montana

Campaign Finance Disclosure and the Legislative Process

This article analyzes an underappreciated and oft-overlooked method of campaign finance regulation: the use of reporting and disclosure requirements. Although disclosure has long been overshadowed by more prominent forms of campaign finance regulation, disclosure requirements have recently begun to receive new attention as the Supreme Court has signaled an increasingly skeptical attitude toward direct restrictions on the use of campaign funds. This Article demonstrates that both sides of the campaign finance debate have failed to recognize the full range of possible disclosure schemes, and it argues that a particular set of disclosure requirements can have a much more dramatic effect on the legislative process than has previously been recognized. Applying these insights, the Article shows that a carefully crafted disclosure scheme can offer an effective solution to the problem of quid pro quo corruption (i.e., political bribery) and can overcome serious constitutional concerns about retaliation against those who support unpopular views, while at the same time providing public officials with more detailed information about the needs and preferences of the citizens they represent.

Filed Under: Disclosure, Disclosure, Research, Disclosure, Jurisprudence & Litigation, Disclosure, Jurisprudence & Litigation

Mandatory Disclosure for Ballot-Initiative Campaigns

The most common approach to disclosure in American politics is simply and aptly described as “more is better.” Disclosure is often championed as a low-cost means of combating the allegedly corrosive effects of money in politics by providing information to the public about the source of funding and expenditures made by groups advocating for the […]

Filed Under: Disclosure, Disclosure, Disclosure, Disclosure State, External Relations Sub-Pages, Research, ballot initiatives, campaign finance reform, Dick Carpenter, Disclosure, institute for justice, polling, Disclosure, Disclosure, California, Colorado, Florida, Massachusetts, Ohio, Washington

Campaign Finance Red Tape: Strangling Free Speech & Political Debate

Raymond J

Twenty-four states provide citizens the ability to make laws directly through ballot measures. However, these states also strictly restrict the First Amendment rights of citizens to speak out about these ballot measures. As such, various disclosure requirements result in complex registration and reporting requirements that are difficult for even the most highly educated citizens to decipher. In an effort to prove this, the author used an innovative experiment, where a sample of 255 citizens was asked to complete actual disclosure forms. Unsurprisingly, not one person completed the forms correctly. Using these findings, the author argues that these disclosure laws are both unnecessary and an obstacle to the free speech guaranteed to all.

Filed Under: Disclosure, Disclosure, Expenditure, First Amendment, Independent Speech, Issue Advocacy, Research, campaign contributions, Contribution, Contribution Limits, Disclosure, Expenditure, Contributions & Limits, Disclosure, Expenditure, California, Colorado, Missouri

H.R. 2093

Text of H.R. 2093, the grassroots lobbying disclosure proposal introduced by former Representative Marty Meehan (D-MA) in the 110th Congress.

Filed Under: Disclosure, Disclosure, Lobbying, Research, lobbying, lobbyist, Disclosure, Lobbying, Disclosure, Lobbying

Disclosure Costs: Unintended Consequences of Campaign Finance Reform

Raymond J

A prominent feature of campaign finance regulation is mandatory disclosure of contributions and the personal information of contributors. This regulation is in effect for both candidate elections and ballot issue elections. Although disclosure is heralded by its proponents as a necessary measure to prevent corruption, in actuality it generates privacy concerns for individuals wishing to express their First Amendment rights. By means of a six state public opinion survey, the authors highlight the widespread lack of public awareness regarding the real effects of disclosure and the resultant opinions of these citizens who realize what disclosure really means for their own privacy. To remedy this problem, the authors present a voluntary disclosure system.

Filed Under: Disclosure, Disclosure, Research, Disclosure, Disclosure, Disclosure, California, Colorado, Florida, Massachusetts, Ohio, Washington