I’d forgotten about it, but friends reminded me that the LA Times obtained a list of people who gave, for and against, to the fight over the Prop 8 referendum in 2008. They put the whole database online and made it searchable. Search it today and, sure enough, there’s Eich with a $1,000 donation in favor. Under California law, that disclosure is perfectly legal: The state is authorized to provide certain personal information about anyone who donates more than $100 to a ballot measure.
So following my argument from free speech, what is the reason why voters have to be made known to their hateful, spiteful enemies? Of course you want to protect against corruption. But Allahpundit points out a crucial distinction:
The reason you want transparency when donating to a candidate is to prevent an elected official, who’s supposed to serve the public interest, from being secretly co-opted by huge sums of money provided by a special interest. In a ballot measure, though, the money being spent is designed to influence the public itself. They’re the final arbiter of the public interest, no?
At the very least, if you’re worried about shadowy interests pouring cash into ads to sway a public referendum, the financial threshold to trigger disclosure should be way, way higher than $100.
Of course, if the IRS behavior began later than this campaign of intimidation, perhaps that is what has inspired them to try to get more records.
If you are in favor of publicizing everyone who donated $100 or more to a referendum on a law, I ask again, why not advocate that we record everyone’s vote and publish that data with their names, addresses, and phone numbers?
Plainly, this setup is designed to favor those without restraints against following their violent and vengeful impulses and to the disadvantage of those who practice civilized restraint.