The next election promises to be the most expensive in history. Hundreds of millions of dollars will be spent by outside groups. More and more of these dollars come from organizations that do not disclose information about their donors. As in the last cycle, most of this money likely will be concentrated on races in a few key states and districts. In some of these races, outside spending may dominate the debate. And money from outside groups likely will go disproportionately to fund negative advertisements.
Such a proliferation of anonymous, negative speech cannot be good for our democracy. Nor is it consistent with the view of eight Justices of the Supreme Court, who ruled that “effective disclosure” is what “enables the electorate to make informed decisions and give proper weight to different speakers and messages.” Moreover, as Justice Scalia recently noted in another case: “Requiring people to stand up in public for their political acts fosters civic courage, without which democracy is doomed. . . . [A] society which . . . campaigns anonymously . . . hidden from public scrutiny and protected from the accountability of criticism . . . does not resemble the Home of the Brave.” I remain hopeful that the Commission will one day take this insight to heart.