PUBLIUS WAS NOT A PAC

VI. Conclusion

Publius was not a PAC. Rather, it was an association of three people who sought to speak out in favor of a governing document, one that endures today. As campaign finance disclosure expands to require registration and reporting of individuals and groups who wish to merely speak out on a political issue, Publius’s example may soon be illegal for such intents and purposes. The end of anonymous political speech and political privacy (for all but the most extreme voices) threatens not only speech itself, but truthfulness and forthrightness from those who do speak. As in McIntyre, we must recognize and reaffirm that anonymity is as much a choice of what someone is saying as how he or she says it. Such content restrictions must be strictly scrutinized by our courts and narrowly tailored to serve a governmental interest. For issue advocacy, in particular, disclosure serves no compelling governmental interest.

Narrow tailoring also requires simple, understandable disclosure laws. We should not tolerate a system of “reform” that makes participation in the political process and speaking one’s mind arduous. Whatever merit disclosure may have, today’s system is harmful to the First Amendment and these harms outweigh any of disclosure’s benefits. A streamlined, understandable system of political disclosure would reclaim First Amendment protections and ensure the right of average Americans so bold as to spend more than $1,000 to speak their minds. In time, this nation might reclaim the lost ideal and “assume that this information is not in itself harmful, that people will perceive their own best interests if only they are well enough informed, and that the best means to that end is to open the channels of communication rather than to close them.”206

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