Writing in the Washington Examiner, Prof. Brad Smith astutely pointed out the disconnect between House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi's response to employees receiving $1,000 bonuses as a result of the tax cut bill passed in December and the current campaign finance disclosure thresholds:
. . . The truth is that the U.S. today has more extensive disclosure than ever before. Contrary to popular myth, even “super PACs” are required by law to publicly disclose all donors giving more than $200. Traditional PACs, political parties, and candidates must do the same. In many states, the disclosure thresholds are much lower — as little as $10.
Which takes me back to “crumbs.” If Nancy Pelosi thinks that $1,000 is “crumbs,” why does she support a law that requires every American who contributes more than $200 (and as little as $10 in some states) to a candidate, political party, or PAC, to be reported to the government, with their names, addresses, and employment information published for the world to see? . . .
. . . A $200 contribution represents about one one-hundredth of 1 percent of what the average winning House candidate spent in 2016. No one in Congress is being corrupted by $200 contributions. Nor do undecided voters learn anything from seeing the personal information of thousands of small donors, whom they almost certainly have never heard of.
These disclosure thresholds were low when enacted, and haven’t been adjusted, not even for inflation, since 1979. Studies have shown that compulsory disclosure of campaign contributions discourages small donor political participation. . . . The threshold at which contributor information must be publicly disclosed should be substantially higher than it currently is. That would simplify the reporting system, make harassment of small donors less likely, and encourage small donor participation. That would be one campaign finance reform both Left and Right could get behind. And it wouldn’t be “crumbs.”
Democrats and liberals are quick to dismiss when Americans get to keep more of their hard-earned money (and of course, $1,000 is a substantial amount to most people, even if not to multi-millionaire Pelosi). Yet despite lamenting the lack of small donor participation in the political system, they champion outdated disclosure requirements that discourage small donors and require disclosure of small contributions of which a candidate takes no notice. And as Prof. Smith describes, in this era of political violence and intimidation, the disclosure requirements open up everyday Americans to bullying and threats of violence for expressing their political beliefs through their contributions.