Sunlight Without Sunburns: Balancing Public Access and Privacy in Ballot Measure Disclosure Laws
Posted: 15 Sep 2011 Last revised: 15 May 2012
Date Written: September 13, 2011
Today, record sums of money are being spent in highly polarizing ballot measure elections. Disclosure laws, which require the sources of campaign funding to be publicized on the Internet, are exposing ballot measure donors to an unprecedented loss of privacy and harassment. As a result, a growing number of individuals are challenging these laws in court and pressing state legislatures to raise disclosure thresholds. On the other side, however, public access advocates are insisting that states continue to publish all campaign finance data in order to promote voter competence, preserve election transparency and maintain donor accountability. These two sides are debating the issue as if the only available options are disclosure according to current law or no disclosure at all. This Article mines the vast, unexplored middle ground between these options and offers three innovative solutions that would protect donor privacy without undermining the goals of disclosure. These solutions, which require states to revise the information they disclose about certain donors and the means by which they disclose it, are modeled on the public access policies federal courts have adopted for plea agreements.
Keywords: disclosure, campaign disclosure, ballot measures, election law, First Amendment, Internet
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