Many were surprised with the passage of Proposition 8 last year in California. Much of the surprise was due to California’s liberal reputation, the significant GLBT community in California, and large and vocal outpour of support or the No on Prop 8 campaign. However, just as there were huge donations and massive outpourings of support against the ballot, the same occurred for the campaign for the ballot. However, it appears as though the individuals and organization who support the Yes on Prop 8 campaign would like to remain anonymous.
Typically campaign finance records are public records, and therefore, anyone can search to find out who and/or what contributed to specific political campaigns. Often, you can even find these records easily online. (Check the Free Public Records Directory to locate campaign finance records in your state). The access to such records has been hailed by many an important right because it can help create transparency in the political process. However, the question remains: at what cost to we value transparency? Do we value over someone’s life? This is the basis of a new federal lawsuit filed in California on behalf of the supporters of Proposition 8.
Apparently, due to the fact that the donations are public record, donors have been complaining of backlash for their support. On the California Secretary of State’s website is a list of the donors. The lawsuit which was filed last week seeks to remove this information from the website. Furthermore, the lawsuit requests that groups such as the National Organization for Marriage California and ProtectMarriage.com be excused from meeting campaign disclosure requirements.
These organizations are concerned about the backlash they have allegedly received. Some claim however, that the only documented backlash is people choosing not to frequent establishments that supported Proposition 8. If this is the case, couldn’t it be argued that people have a right to choose where they feel like spending their hard earned dollars? Does a loss in business warrant limiting access to public information? Supporters of the lawsuit would argue yes. Furthermore, supporters believe that such exposure will dissway donors from participating in other political campaigns. Also, according to the lawsuit, those who supported Proposition 8 face much more than lost business; there are allegations of a broken window, name calling, receiving envelopes with a white powder, and threatening calls and emails. Still, many No on Prop 8 supporters and public records supporters feel that a victory for this lawsuit will create more unnecessary limits on the public’s right to information.
The Political Reform Act of 1976 essentially made the requirement for the identification of those donating $100 or more to state and political campaigns be made public. While names and occupation are public information, address are not to be made available on the internet. The California Politcial Reform Act also requires disclosure. Should the laws laid out in these acts continue to be followed, or should the rules be amended to protect certain donors? This is an issue which is sure to create a lot of heated debates in the upcoming months of litigation.