As of this moment, SB661, making substantial amendments to Michigan's Campaign Finance Act, is sitting on the governor's desk for signature. There appears to be no middle ground between these two views of the bill and what the Governor should do with it. In an MLive op-ed today, Michigan Freedom Fund's Greg McNeilly calls the bill "a terrific, common-sense bill the governor should sign":
Anonymous “issue ads” are an American tradition stretching all the way back to the anonymously written Federalist and Anti-Federalist papers. Without them, many of us would never feel comfortable exercising our right to free speech because of the fear of intimidation.
Critics say donors to causes should be placed on a government list, so we can judge the issue based on who supports it. But we would never demand a reporter disclose anonymous sources in order to judge their article. No one demands newspapers publish their financial records after they endorse particular candidates.
We judge issues and causes based on their substance and merit. The people who want donor lists only want to use them to intimidate people who step out of line, like union members who support education reform or big business employees who want greater workplace regulations.
Michigan Campaign Finance Network's Rich Robinson, in an Free Press op-ed, takes the opposite view, and calls for the governor to veto the bill:
Is disclosure of spending and donors a threat to free speech? Look what the Supreme Court said in the famous Citizens United decision:
“The First Amendment protects political speech; and disclosure permits citizens and shareholders to react to the speech of corporate entities in a proper way. This transparency enables the electorate to make informed decisions and give proper weight to different speakers and messages.”
Is disclosure a threat to freedom of association? Those who cite a 1958 case in which the U.S. Supreme Court stopped Alabama from obtaining the NAACP’s membership list are creating a false equivalence between the right to anonymity for civil rights advocates who risked being lynched and for political spenders, who risk only commercial backlash or public scorn.
The freedom at the heart of Senate Bill 661 is the freedom to launder money. The anonymous spenders in state campaigns are rational economic actors; they want a policy return for their political investment. They just don’t want you to know who they are, so you can’t connect the dots.
Decide for yourself. Here's the bill.