Full Disclosure

Full Disclosure

How Campaign Finance Disclosure Laws Fail to Inform Voters and Stifle Public Debate

By David M. Primo, Ph.D.
October 2011


Imagine that you had to send a government official a note each time you did something political, whether it be attending a rally, volunteering on a campaign, posting to a blog or even conversing with friends over drinks. Now imagine that this information would be made public by the government. Would your conversations with friends change? Would your other political activities change? For many of us, the answer would be yes.

Of course, in most cases you can volunteer on a political campaign without registering with the government. You can talk with friends without registering with the government. But when you decide to spend money on politics, whether by contributing to a candidate or a group or even collaborating with like-minded individuals on political activities, everything changes. You often are required to file complicated forms with the government. Your personal information, including your home address and employer, is likely to be posted on the Internet in handy searchable databases. The release of this information has led to lost jobs, vandalism and even violence.

You might think there would be a good reason for collecting this information, but in the case of ballot issues, the justification is surprisingly thin. In the case of contributions to the campaigns of candidates for office, the U.S. Supreme Court has determined that the fear of actual or perceived corruption justifies the disclosure of contributions to candidate campaigns. In the case of ballot issue campaigns, however, the “candidate” is a policy position, and no such anti-corruption rationale exists.

Download Full Disclosure [PDF]

Press Releases


Related IJ Cases

Release: New Study Shows Campaign Finance Disclosure Laws Fail to Inform Voters and Stifle Public Debate (October 20, 2011)


Arizona Campaign Finance -  Arizona Free Enterprise Club’s Freedom Club PAC v. Bennett


Florida Citizen Speech - Andrew Nathan Worley, et al. v. Kurt S. Browning, et al.

  Protecting Citizen Speech - Justice v. Hosemann

    Speech Now - SpeechNow.org v. Federal Election Commission 

Related Videos

  Other Research
The Dirty Game od AZ's "Clean Elections"   Report: Keep Out: How State Campaign Finance Laws Erect Barriers to Entry for Political Entrepreneurs

  Report: Mowing Down the Grassroots: How Grassroots Lobbying Disclosure Suppresses Political Participation

  Report: Campaign Finance Red Tape

Email Address
Please enter a valid email address

Institute for Justice
901 N. Glebe Road, Suite 900
Arlington, VA 22203
Tel 703.682.9320, Fax 703.682.9321
© 1997-2015