Via Election Law Blog, this New York Times op-ed by two ex-senators gives an unconventional justification for disclosure: to help incumbents ward off anonymous attacks:
Without the transparency offered by the Disclose Act of 2012, we fear long-term consequences that will hurt our democracy profoundly. We’re already seeing too many of our former colleagues leaving public office because the partisanship has become stifling and toxic. If campaigning for office continues to be so heavily affected by anonymous out-of-district influences running negative advertising, we fear even more incumbents will decline to run and many of our most capable potential leaders will shy away from elective office.
I suppose it makes sense to argue this if you are speaking to senators’ self
Interest, but it might not look great to voters.
I’m a huge fan of Rick Hasen’s Election Law Blog. I’m also interested in campaign finance disclosures. I recently came across a post there titled, “Breaking News: Court of Appeals for D.C. Circuit Denies Stay in van Hollen Campaign Disclosure Case on 2-1 Vote; Sets Sept.Argument Date“. I skimmed it, didn’t really understand what the bottom line was–does the decision here change disclosure requirements for Super PAC’s, and if so how?–and decided I would read it more closely later and figure it out.
Today I tried that and had no luck. I won’t even try reading the Court decision itself. Instead I went to this press release by the advocacy group Democracy 21 that the blog post links to. Here’s how it opens:
A three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit late yesterday turned down a request to stay a district court ruling that struck down an FEC regulation that had all but eliminated the disclosure of donors to groups that make “electioneering communications” in federal elections.
So to unpack this, starting from the end…
-Groups that make electioneering communications were once required to disclose donors [disclosure required]
-Then the FEC eliminated this requirement (ignore the “all but” for now) [disclosure not required]
-Then a district court struck down the FEC’s regulation [disclosure required]
-Then a request was made to stay (stop) this ruling [disclosure not required, if the request was granted]
-Finally, the Appeals Court denied the request [disclosure required]
OK, now that that’s sorted out. The bottom line, continuing to quote from the press release:
“Every organization making “electioneering communications” in the 2012 presidential and congressional elections is now required to disclose the donors whose funds are being used to pay for their “electioneering communications,” according to Wertheimer. “All groups making “electioneering communications” are now on notice and we expect them to fully comply with the contribution disclosure provisions in the future,” Wertheimer stated.