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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Costs of Mandating Disclosure | John Samples

Cato Unbound: "Professor Cain mentions two rationales for such coercion: preventing corruption and informing voters. Cain argues that current contribution limits are enough to prevent corruption. Until now many libertarians argued such limits should be loosened or eliminated. Disclosure would then bear the full weight of preventing corruption. Such limits might then still be liberalized, but eliminating them now seems less relevant.

The Citizens United decision invalidated a ban on electoral speech paid for by groups taking the corporate form. The recent decision in vs. Federal Election Commission indicates that individuals in association may spend as much as they wish advocating the election or defeat of a candidate. Consider an example that follows from these two decisions. A donor gives money to (say) Karl Rove, who then gives it to a broadcaster. Candidates and their parties are not involved and cannot be corrupted. If Rove is to be forced to disclose these activities, it cannot be to prevent corruption.

Mandated disclosure will be the regulation of choice for these new ways of funding speech. This regulation will be constitutionally justified as a way of informing voters. The courts have generally concluded that the benefits of such information outweigh the costs of disclosure. Do they?"

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