Monday, April 14, 2014

Why Are Anti-Capitalists so Obsessed with Mandatory Campaign Finance "Disclosure"?

In the comments section of the article Koch brothers and their money make America more dangerous by Rutgers faculty member Linda Stamato, the issue of disclosure requirements for those who finance political or issue advocacy was a central theme. 

In regards to that, correspondent TMoor commented:

The Koch brothers have been publicly linked to the Committee for Our Children's Future, a secretive Super PAC that spent nearly $8,000,000.00 on "issue advocacy" during the last election cycle in New Jersey. The value of free speech is greatly diminished if it is difficult to identify the speaker, particularly when those behind the curtain are spending huge amounts of money to get their message out.

I replied:

"The value of free speech is greatly diminished if it is difficult to identify the speaker. . ."

How so? The identity of the speaker is only relevant to ad hominem types. To any thinking person with something to say, the substance of the message is all that matters. Private citizens have a fundamental right to their anonymity, if they so choose.

Stamato responded here:

Of course private citizens have every right to be anonymous but it is also the case that what some, let's say in advocacy pieces that are obscured as objective information, knowing who wrote, who sponsored, etc., let's us in on why these things are appearing... Can't hurt to know that, can it? And, if information is so critically important to share, why not say from whence the information comes?

It seems that some people's anonymity rights are more equal than others. What kind of "right" is consistent with granting Congress the power to selectively violate that right? There are no "buts" about rights, so long as the rights of others are not violated. 

To make sense of Stamato's comment, let's consider her own column. From the get-go, Stamato's main concern is on who said it, not what is said. Early in the article, Stamato states that "They [the Kochs] do their best to keep their cover [but] the extent of the Koch reach is at least partially revealed in tax filings." Her search of these tax filings reveals that "In 2012, some 200 or so donors managed to cough up $250 million" for the Koch's "Freedom Partners," a "clearinghouse" that funds "their organizations of choice." We find out later the identities of some of these organizations:

They underwrite a huge network of foundations, think tanks and political front groups, including their own political action committee, Americans for Prosperity, and their brothers-in-arms at the Club for Growth, the Heritage Foundation and the Cato Institute.

The common denominator uniting these groups is that they advocate, more or less, free markets, individual liberty, and limited, rights-protecting government. Considering Stamato's hate-drenched smear piece and its ilk, can anyone blame the donors for desiring anonymity? Imagine if Stamato had the identities of those 200 anonymous donors. What would she do with that "critical information?" I think this column answers that question. The smear against the Koch brothers would not be possible if she couldn't uncover their identities from tax filings. Her column, as written, could not happen. Instead, she might actually have to deal with the free market intellectuals and the actual substance of their arguments. 

The Koch brothers, of course, do not choose anonymity—and they pay the Left's price. But Charles Koch understands what he's up against. In a Wall Street Journal piece, he wrote:

Instead of encouraging free and open debate, collectivists strive to discredit and intimidate opponents. They engage in character assassination. (I should know, as the almost daily target of their attacks.) This is the approach that Arthur Schopenhauer described in the 19th century, that Saul Alinsky famously advocated in the 20th, and that so many despots have infamously practiced. Such tactics are the antithesis of what is required for a free society—and a telltale sign that the collectivists do not have good answers.

What it boils down to is: Those who demand disclosure, which they euphemistically call "transparency," are more interested in ad hominem—to personally attack the speaker rather than answer what the speaker says—than intellectual combat on the battleground of ideas. Why? The answer is quite transparent: If you don't have a counter-argument to your opponents' ideas, all that's left is ad hominem.

Related Reading:

I'm Fighting to Restore a Free Society—Charles Koch

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