Washington Examiner: How government enables online outrage mobs (In the News)

By Bradley A. Smith

Bloomberg columnist Megan McArdle recently noted that “we live in fear of online mobs.”…

McArdle argues that the rise of the Internet and online mobs may require us to rethink “the hard, bright line that classical liberalism drew between state coercion and private versions.”

But what about when government coercion enables the actions of mobs? Such is the case with campaign finance law, in which the government requires individuals who donate to political campaigns to report the candidates they support, the amount of their donations, their addresses, and their employment information, and then publicizes that information…

Today, forced disclosure of political donations is used less to inform voters than to provide information to silence speakers through threats and shunning.

Perhaps it is time to rethink our attitude toward disclosure. At a minimum, we should substantially raise the thresholds at which public disclosure of donors becomes mandatory – currently $200 at the federal level, and much less in most states. We should certainly not expand forced disclosure beyond contributions to candidate campaigns – disclosure laws should not be broadened to encompass membership in and dues and contributions to trade and professional associations, nonprofit organizations, and think tanks.

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