There is no question the public has a legitimate interest in knowing who is corruptly spending scads of cash trying to influence voters and lawmakers. But the public should also be able to anonymously support advocacy organizations that engage on the issues of the day, even if they praise or criticize candidates or nominees for their positions on those issues. Absent anonymity, some donors—on both the left and the right—will simply not donate out of the legitimate fear they will be harassed or retaliated against for their advocacy.
My Two Cents
I added this older piece for a couple reasons. I was surprised to read in my political science textbook that the ACLU has fought campaign finance reform on the basis of protecting the First Amendment and was curious why that might be, so I googled around and found this article explaining their position.
Also, I was intrigued by these two sentences toward the end, "As Justice Brandeis famously said, "[t]he greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding." In other words, sometimes the urge to just "do something" about a problem results in serious unintended consequences."
I've seen that last lined trumpeted almost verbatim by other people. I read it in an impassioned Instagram post, maybe 1-2 days after the Parkland, Florida shooting, cautioning everyone to slow down, be calm, don't pass any rash gun laws! It was an uncharacteristically long-winded statement. They seemed VERY concerned that something might be done. But, it's not like any gun legislation put forth would not have been in the works for a long time before the chance to submit it—hardly rash or impulsive. And, gun legislation hadn't passed in ages, so I wondered what the cause for concern was.
Nearly a month later, Florida has passed thoroughly bare-minimum yet reasonable gun safety improvement legislation. I wonder what the Instagram poster knew that I didn't. Perhaps they sensed how thoroughly people had finally had it with literally nothing being done in the wake of yet another mass shooting. Maybe it was the response of the kids, but it was still early at that point.
For all the commentary about nothing having been done in the nearly 30 years since Columbine, something did happen. The tragedy hit us. It hurt us. People died, senselessly, viciously, in terror. That was not for nothing. Nothing would have happened this time if we had not suffered so many times before. Ideally, something would have been done initially, and we wouldn't have suffered through the subsequent rampages. Or perhaps the response would have caused other issues, unexpectedly. Were our legislators just paralyzed by fear of unintended consequences?
I'm guessing it had more to do with a certain lobbying effort.
It seems reasonable to assume that new laws will have at least some surprise ramifications, but legislation is never final. We make, change and remove laws all the time. I'd assert that laws are living documents and should be treated as such. Not changed on a whim, but changed when they need to be changed. That's why laws don't have the same high bar for change that the Constitution does.
Sure, we can do nothing out of fear of doing the wrong thing, and then we can wait expectantly for the next predictable tragedy. Or, we can do something to address the problem and then assess how that goes. If it's awesome, great. If it's not, we try something else. We don't stop trying to improve things just because there's a possibility of unintended consequences. We iterate, argue, and innovate. We progress.