On Sunday the editorial board of the Wall Street Journal expressed dismay that Arizona voters will have an opportunity next week to pass a bill that will lend more transparency to elections by not allowing wealthy donors to hide behind "dark money" organizations.
At issue is the Voters’ Right to Know Act, also known as Proposition 211, which would mandate that all donors giving more than $5,000 have their names available to the public.
As the Journal's editors see it, it will have a "chilling effect on free speech" because donors might face the wrath of critics --with the editors specifically singling out "the left."
"Transparency and sunshine are happy words, but in reality disclosure laws have become a weapon used by the left to intimidate conservatives from engaging in politics," they wrote. "Groups trawl records for names and then organize social-media campaigns to harass and discourage donors. Americans looking to participate in campaigns can, and often do, see their names dragged through the mud. Many donors decline to engage, and political speech is chilled before it even happens."
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The editorial comes out at a time when NPR is reporting that "More than $1.6 billion has been spent or booked on TV ads in a dozen Senate races, with $3 out of every $4 being spent in six states — Georgia, Pennsylvania, Arizona, Wisconsin, Nevada and Ohio, according to an NPR analysis of data provided by the ad-tracking firm AdImpact," before adding, "Most of that money is coming from outside groups, some of which have little-to-no donor transparency — and Republicans are getting a huge boost from them."
Nonetheless, the Journal's editors maintained, "We haven’t found the part of the First Amendment that says it doesn’t apply to people with more than $5,000 to spend on politics. If the measure passes, it will run into a thicket of lawsuits challenging its constitutionality as well as how it conflicts with Arizona’s state constitution. Arizona’s federal lawsuits go up to the liberal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, but the Supreme Court ruled last year in AFP v. Bonta that 'the deterrent effect' of disclosure rules is 'real and pervasive.'"
The editors added, "It sure is. Arizona voters can do a public service by nixing this at the ballot box."
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