More on Disclosure and Deliberation

OMB Watch has offered some comments on this post that are worth responding to.  From their blog:

"CCP charges that proponents of grassroots lobbying disclosure are simply pessimistic of American voters as incapable of differentiating the anonymous messages between either genuine or fraudulent advocacy. However such a distinction is particularly hard when groups have such names that begin with ‘Citizens for’ or ‘Seniors for’."

(emphasis added) 

Respectfully, the author of the post misunderstands our position.  CCP would never make the argument claimed above because we reject the notion that some advocacy is "genuine" while other advocacy is "fraudulent."  "Fraudulent advocacy"–or in "reform" argot, "Astroturf"–is simply a pejorative applied to grassroots lobbying of which one disapproves.

Grassroots lobbying consists of nothing more than one group of private citizens contacting another group of private citizens and asking them to urge their legislators to vote for position X.  The calls that a legislator receives as a result represent real people–not "fraudulent" people or "Astroturf" people–who were convinced by the argument they heard.  This is true regardless of the speaker or the speaker’s motives.  It is true regardless of how well funded the speaker is; the speaker, after all, is convincing these people to call, not bribing them to do so.  Such advocacy is never "fraudulent" or "genuine."  It is simply "advocacy."  It either convinces or it fails to convince.  

CCP believes that private citizens, when exposed to such advocacy, are capable of weighing its merits and of making decisions that they believe are in their best interest.  We believe they are capable of doing so without knowing the identity of the speaker, because the identity of the speaker does not bear on the merit of the argument. 

Reaching a conclusion on the merits of an argument isn’t always easy.  Certainly it’s more convenient to simply say: "I don’t like Speaker X, so I will ignore his argument."  But the First Amendment–and, accordingly, the protection enjoyed by anonymous speech–doesn’t make exceptions for convenience; it makes exceptions for corruption.  And there is nothing corrupt about asking people to contact their legislators, no matter who does the asking, who paid for it, or what they call themselves.

The Center for Competitive Politics is now the Institute for Free Speech.