Capital Research Center: Required Donor Disclosure: A Threat to the First Amendment (In the News)

Capital Research Center: Required Donor Disclosure: A Threat to the First Amendment

By Caroline Downey

June 30th marked the 60th anniversary of NAACP v. Alabama, the Supreme Court decision protecting citizens’ rights to free association as well as the right to privacy, including in political activity and affiliations…

The Cato Institute and the Institute for Free Speech jointly hosted a debate on June [28th] titled, “[NAACP v. Alabama after 60 Years: Should Associational Privacy Still Be Protected by the Constitution?],” featuring Bradley Smith of the Institute for Free Speech and former general counsel of the Federal Election Commission, Lawrence Noble. The speakers re-examined the court decision and explained how it is still relevant today.

Smith argued that compulsory disclosure “chills” freedom of speech and association. The protestors that periodically appear on TV are a political minority; most Americans prefer to refrain from political engagement. Forced disclosure exacerbates political apathy even more. Without the protection of anonymity, potential activists and donors are disincentivized from participating in politics, largely because of the fear of backlash and retaliation. Few would choose to lose their jobs over their political affiliations. They’ll just leave the civic sphere instead…

Smith warned that many lawmakers are looking to expand invasive disclosure laws to a new realm: ideas. Meaning, non-profits that educate the public about political issues are the next target. As Smith wrote in the Wall Street Journal:

“Today legislators in at least 24 states have proposed expanding compulsory disclosure to include financial support for think tanks and other nonprofit groups. In other words, organizations like the NAACP.”

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