Peter Nelson, director of public policy at the Center for the American Experiment in Minneapolis, had a great oped on the costs of disclosure in the Minneapolis Star Tribune last week. Be sure to check it out. Here’s a taste:
In my election law seminar in law school, I recall an interesting discussion on the impact of disclosure on professors. Whether the threat to their job is real or perceived, politically conservative professors tend to hide their beliefs until they get tenure. Disclosure, of course, compromises their right to keep their politics private. The Supreme Court has protected groups like the NAACP when there was a reasonable probability of threats and harassment.
The burden of disclosure on First Amendment rights is even greater when tied to a single, controversial issue on a ballot. It's one thing to be linked to the beliefs of a candidate or a party when no one expects agreement down the line; it's quite another thing to be tied to a single issue where there is no question about your position.
For what it’s worth, I was in that election law seminar with Peter, and it was a very interesting discussion. There seemed to be a feeling, even among some more liberal participants, that in an age when you can know someone’s political contributions through a Google search, disclosure truly can chill a person’s speech.