If more evidence was needed to support the idea of donor privacy and anonymous speech in elections, the reaction by the left against the ‘Invest in Ed’ and ‘Outlaw Dirty Money’ court rulings should settle it.
It’s been two weeks since the Arizona Supreme Court barred both ballot measures from appearing on the ballot, and the backers of both measures are now waging a campaign to target and harass anyone that supported the legal challenge.
Angry activists and various labor unions began a coordinated effort to protest outside of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and any other private group that participated in exposing the legal flaws and signature issues with both measures. Appropriately named “Fightbacknews” chronicles on their website how these protests were designed to go after not just the private non-profit entities, but to “out” every business or individual that dared to oppose their agenda.
Social media groups supportive of Invest in Ed and Outlaw Dirty Money have been openly discussing strategies to expand their intimidation campaign, both now and in the future. And since the issues they are championing—education funding and donor disclosure—are generally supported by the establishment/liberal media, news outlets have ignored the deployment of these thug tactics to target political free speech. This is especially ironic, since anonymous speech has been the cornerstone of almost all reporting (and even entire books) by the mainstream media since Donald Trump became president.
None of this is really new. Efforts to target people for their political beliefs has intensified in recent years, often with an assist from government officials and politicians. Mozilla CEO Brandon Eich was forced to resign after furious attacks against him for his support of Prop 8 defining marriage between one man and one woman. Prosecutors in Wisconsin launched a corrupt investigation targeting conservative donors that was finally shut down by the Supreme Court last year. And no one should forget the IRS targeting of conservative groups that finally ended with a large payout to victims and an apology from the agency.
That is what makes efforts such as Outlaw Dirty Money so dangerous. Private citizens should have a right to support causes and issues they believe in without fear of harassment, intimidation or retaliation. Donor privacy is crucial to free speech, and is essential to promoting open dialogue on critical issues. If government or angry social media mobs are allowed to dictate the terms of “debate”, it will lead to far worse outcomes than not knowing the identify of a donor to an organization with whom you might disagree.
Rather than looking to target individuals or businesses engaging in political speech, a better approach would be to encourage more speech and let voters make decisions for themselves. Since corporate and individual political spending is evenly split between the two parties, it’s not as if either side has an unfair advantage. Let’s look to promote our 1st Amendment rights, not target people who try to exercise it.