We view campaign finance restrictions with suspicion, for they are intended by people in office to prevent the dissemination of facts and opinions that might threaten their power and privilege. If you hear, or sometimes say, that dark money and anonymous opinion campaigns will cause the sky to fall, let us remind you that America survived publication of the “Federalist Papers,” a propaganda campaign that perfectly fits that description. Such campaigns threaten the republic far less than do the 54 Senate Democrats who, in 2014, voted as a bloc to amend the Constitution to weaken free speech protections. This is a view we have taken consistently, and repeated frequently, but we don’t begrudge our competitors for seeing things differently. Take the Washington Post, for example, whose editors have over time staked out their reasoned opposition to the landmark Citizens United decision. That decision, the latest big one in campaign finance law, permitted unlimited donations by individuals for the sake of independent political expenditures, which have since proliferated. It also freed businesses to spend directly on such expenditures, but this, contrary to advance scaremongering and current perceptions, has never really taken off. In its recent eulogy of Justice Anthony Kennedy, the Post’s editors referred to Citizens United as “the court’s ill-considered creation of corporate free-speech rights in political donations.” In 2016, they lamented the state of money in politics, arguing that the creation of the super PAC and its unlimited individual donations was creating an “oligarchy” of political participation and had “the potential to warp the political system .” Given that the majority opinion in Citizens United presupposed some regimen for the disclosure of political spending, the Post’s editors have also argued for a measure to require donor disclosure by nonprofit organizations that run issue ads during election season. “ What, exactly, is the problem with transparency ?” they ask. Except, it really isn’t. For, at the moment, the Washington Post Company is in court challenging a Maryland campaign finance law.
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