Letter to the Editor

Should campaign donations be kept secret?

My initial reaction to Frederick S. Holmes Jr.’s Dec. 25 letter was disbelief that anyone could oppose full disclosure of campaign contributions, let alone equate such donations to votes at the polls. But then I recognized the full potential of his idea.

Yes, by all means, let’s allow any individual or organization to contribute unlimited funds to any politician or political party — so long as the recipient never learns the identities of the contributors or what specific policies they favor or oppose. After all, ballots are kept secret precisely so there can be no reward or punishment of individual votes. Surely fat cats, advocacy groups and representatives of foreign governments all deserve the same consideration.

Under such a system, I trust that all those selfless donors would continue to pour millions into campaigns without any expectation of a quid pro quo, thereby removing any possibility of the retribution Mr. Holmes fears. Right?

Steven Alan Honley, Washington

In arguing that campaign donations need to be secret for the same reason ballots are secret — to prevent retribution — Frederick S. Holmes Jr. confuses the right to vote with the right to free speech. I find it unlikely that the Founders would have expected those who wanted to speak out in town forums to do so wearing masks.

It’s one thing if I don’t want to tell anyone how I voted. It is another thing for me to tell others how to vote. Voters need to know who is telling them. The Supreme Court has ruled campaign donations to be protected free speech, so that money can talk. But anonymous free speech is tainted speech.

A. Charles Catania, Columbia

 
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