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Such responses were common. Just as revealing were the differences between those who agreed to post the disclaimer and those who did not. Those who agreed to participate were more likely to be third-party candidates with no serious chance of winning who raised little money. Conversely, those who declined to post the disclaimer were more likely to be well-funded incumbents associated with one of the two major parties. In other words, the candidates for whom money mattered most feared the possible chilling effects of giving donors a more complete picture of what happens to the campaign finance information reported to the government.
In his partial dissent in the landmark Citizens United decision, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote of such costs: “Now more than ever, [disclosure] will chill protected speech because . . . ‘the advent of the Internet’ enables ‘prompt disclosure of expenditures,’ which ‘provide[s]’ political opponents ‘with the information needed’ to intimidate and retaliate against their foes.”
Apparently candidates liberal and conservative see the same costs — where simply telling donors what actually happens to their personal information after making a donation is tantamount to candidates cutting their own throats.
Dick M. Carpenter II is an associate professor at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs. David M. Primo is the Ani and Mark Gabrellian Professor at the University of Rochester. Pavel Tendetnik and Sandy Ho are doctoral students at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs.