Compulsory Donor Disclosure: When Government Monitors Its Citizens

In this Heritage Foundation Legal Memorandum by CCP Chairman Bradley A. Smith, Research Fellow Scott Blackburn, and Policy Analyst Luke Wachob, the authors explain how political speech in America is subject to an ever expanding disclosure regime as more and more private information – including citizens’ names, home addresses, employers, and occupations, as well as the groups with which they affiliate – is demanded by local, state, and federal government bureaucrats as a prerequisite for talking about elections, issues, and politics generally.

In this context, Smith et al. explain how disclosure, particularly the compulsory disclosure of donors to causes and candidates, has failed. Indeed, far from informing the public, citizens’ personal information is used by the media and activists to mislead the citizenry, generate selective outrage over disfavored political speech, and silence individuals and groups of concerned citizens who are trying to promote their political message.

The authors conclude by explaining the ways in which the regulations that have created these databases of political speakers have caused substantial harms, both to individuals caught up in the government’s web and to groups that have chosen to express their political beliefs on behalf of their members.

Read the full Heritage Foundation Legal Memorandum here.

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