The American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut strongly commended Gov. Dannel P. Malloy for his veto of Public Act No. 12-117, An Act Concerning Changes to the Public Financing Act and Other Election Laws.
"Gov. Malloy recognizes that meaningful reform of campaign finance is possible without compromising the right to freedom of speech guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution," said Andrew Schneider, executive director of the ACLU of Connecticut. "The bill didn't achieve that balance. The governor's veto provides a chance to try again, and to get it right."
The ACLU of Connecticut objected to the bill on the grounds that it would require organizations to disclose the names of their major contributors as a condition of speaking freely about elected officials or issues the organizations support or oppose. The disclosure requirement would apply even to organizations that advocate only on issues, never supporting or opposing political candidates.
Thus the bill would have inhibited praise or criticism of elected officials and discussion of issues vital to an informed and representative democracy, limiting speech even when the legislature is in session. Expenditures on, for example, an action alert from the ACLU, Planned Parenthood or the Family Institute of Connecticut asking recipients to contact legislators about an issue of public interest could have triggered exposure. This bill would even have regulated an email asking the public to thank a legislator for supporting an issue or cause, as well as routine fundraising mailings that discuss the actions of elected officials.
When disclosure requirements are not linked to candidate contributions or expenditures expressly advocating the election or defeat of a candidate, they inevitably chill political speech and association, especially for those individuals and groups advocating unpopular causes or criticizing the government. Forty years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court recognized this in NAACP v. Alabama, by ruling in support of the right of private organizations to keep the identities of their members confidential.
"This is a very principled stand for the governor to take, and not necessarily an easy one, " Schneider said. "We appreciate his leadership on this issue."
-- June 15, 2012
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