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, Research, 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, Research, Disclosure, Enforcement, Expenditure

Keep Out: How State Campaign Finance Laws Erect Barriers to Entry for Political Entrepreneurs

In this report, the author explains how forms of state legislation stifle the political speech of political entrepreneurs, those individuals and organizations who form and grow new political voices and movements. Specifically, the report examines the effects of two types of state campaign finance regulations that act as barriers to independent citizen groups:  contribution limits and political action committee (PAC) requirements. A lack of appreciation for the role of political entrepreneurs in promoting innovative public policy and electoral competition on the part of those in power has resulted in the erection of barriers for outside groups who wish to speak out. The report concludes that instead of encouraging civic engagement, states are attacking independent political advocacy through unnecessary, speech-limiting regulations.

Filed Under: Contribution Limits, Contribution Limits Research, Contributions & Limits, External Relations Sub-Pages, First Amendment, Independent Speech, Issue Advocacy, Research, Super PACs, campaign contributions, Contribution, Contributions & Limits, Disclosure, Expenditure, Political Committees & 527s, Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming

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

Mowing Down the Grassroots: How Grassroots Lobbying Disclosure Suppresses Political Participation

Grassroots lobbying is any effort to organize, coordinate or implore others to contact public officials in order to affect public policy. Through grassroots lobbying, like‐minded citizens can alert elected officials to constituents’ preferences, educate fellow citizens and make their voices heard, and even persuade the public to adopt new views. In short, grassroots lobbying is quintessential representative democracy in action. However, as this report documents, sweeping lobbying laws in 36 states threaten to strangle grassroots movements in red tape and bureaucratic regulation. Twenty‐two states explicitly include grassroots lobbying in the definition of lobbying, while another 14 consider any attempt to influence public policy to be lobbying, as long as a certain amount is spent. Thus, such common activities as publishing an open letter, organizing a demonstration or distributing flyers can trigger regulation and force organizers to register with the state and file detailed reports on their activities, as well as the identities of supporters. These regulations raise the costs of political activity and set legal traps for unsuspecting citizens, thus making it more difficult for ordinary citizens to participate in politics-all with little or no benefit to the public. These findings suggest elected officials should listen to constituent concerns or debate ideas in the open, rather than mowing down the grassroots with regulation.

Filed Under: Issue Advocacy, Lobbying, Research, grassroots, lobbying, lobbyist, milyo, primo, Disclosure, Lobbying, Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming

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

Campaign Finance Red Tape: Strangling Free Speech & Political Debate

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 Research, Expenditure, First Amendment, Independent Speech, Issue Advocacy, Research, campaign contributions, Contribution, 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 Research, Lobbying, Research, lobbying, lobbyist, Disclosure, Lobbying