The Public’s Right to Know versus Compelled Speech

In this Article, we question neither the desirability of creating transparency in the ties between candidates and their contributors, nor the efficacy of disclosure regulations in affecting this end. This is despite the fact that several recent studies cast doubt on the extent to which state campaign finance laws reduce either corruption or the appearance of corruption.3 Rather, we focus on compelled disclosure of  political finances in non-candidate contexts, such as ballot measure elections and grassroots issue advocacy. Grassroots issue advocacy is “any effort to organize, coordinate or implore others to contact public officials in order to affect public policy.”4 We argue that the extension of disclosure regulations to political activities unrelated to candidate elections cannot be justified in a similar way as a means to prevent corruption. In non-candidate contests, there can be no revelation of an unsavory relationship between a contributor and a candidate because, simply, there is no candidate. Similarly, because contribution limits do not exist outside of candidate elections, disclosure cannot facilitate the enforcement of non-existent contribution limits in non-candidate contexts.


Suggested citation: Dick Carpenter and Jeffrey Milyo, The Public’s Right to Know versus Compelled Speech: What Does Social Science Research Tell Us about the Benefits and Costs of Campaign Finance Disclosure in Non-Candidate Elections?, 40 Fordham Urb. L.J. 603 (2012).

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