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The Coming Shroud of Big Money Secret Donors

Category: Society
Posted: 07/02/11 13:51, Edited: 07/02/11 13:53

by Dave Mindeman

I'm trying to figure out how free speech rights in this country need to be anonymous free speech.

The Minnesota Family Council lost a Campaign Finance Board decision in which they insisted that their donors need to remain anonymous....

?To require groups, non profits like the Minnesota Family Council, to disclose their donors and make their donors names public would have a significant chilling effect on free speech. Even in Minnesota already it?s gotten heated in some respects,? Prichard told the board. ?The concern is harassment, property damage, a chilling effect. If I know I have to disclose my name, I?m not going to get involved with the Minnesota Family Council.?

Without disclosure, free speech monetary support is just money. It is not a personal statement. It is not taking a stand. It is not the art of personal persuasion. It is just money.

Individuals have free speech...and thanks to the Supreme Court, corporations have free speech. But gobs of money without any connection to a person or thing, shouldn't have free speech rights.

Now, I realize that the consequences that the Minnesota Family Council mentions are real and unfortunate. But in the so-called "marketplace" of ideas, shouldn't we know who we are talking to?

It is only with large sums of money that free speech anonymity can work. Anonymous comments in blogs or newspapers are hard to take seriously. Anonymous testimony in court is just hearsay. Anonymous discussion has no means of substantive back and forth debate.

Yet, wealthy donors want the right to push their preferred public policy and candidates onto the rest of us with no perceivable consequence or direct responsibility.

The MN Campaign Finance Board may have been able to rule for disclosure in this case, but eventually, it would not be surprising to see the Supreme Court shroud big money donations in the darkness of secrecy.
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