Do you have a right to be anonymous?
by Jim Babka
“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”
~ Voltaire (attributed)
We need your help to file another brief with the Supreme Court. This time we want to protect your right to speak and act anonymously. You already exercise your right to anonymity when you vote. Without the secret ballot you would be vulnerable to various forms of intimidation. Other forms of anonymous expression used to be protected. For example:
Many of the most influential writings of the Founding era were published anonymously.
The men who debated the Constitution wanted to be able to speak their minds, without fear of retribution. The country you know and love probably wouldn’t exist without anonymous expression… including the Federalist and Anti-Federalist Papers.
If anonymous expression was important for the creation of the United States, isn’t it important for you too?
Should you be able to . . .
- Distribute anonymous pamphlets?
- Make anonymous contributions to candidates?
- Broadcast anonymous advertisements?
This kind of anonymity was crucial to the civil rights movement. The identity of those who contributed to the work of civil rights movement was legally protected, in order to shield them from retribution, intimidation, and violence. It’s doubtful the civil rights movement could have obtained the funding it needed without the legal right for people to both make and receive anonymous donations.
YOU don’t have this right today.
You cannot . . .
- Make anonymous contributions to candidates for federal office
- Solicit anonymous donations if you’re running for federal office
- Advertise anonymously, if you’re subject is the election of one or more of your federal rulers
As a result, you’re vulnerable to potential intimidation by your employer, the press, the government, and even your fellow citizens. If you run for office on an unpopular platform people may fear retribution for supporting you, so you may not be able to raise much money -- your ideas may remain unpopular simply because your reasons for believing them are never heard
Anonymity vs. Transparency
The politicians and the mainstream media claim that anonymity must be prohibited in order to prevent corruption, but these are self-serving lies. The exact opposite is true. When people are afraid to speak, then corruption flourishes.
Minority opinions have no power to corrupt the government, because they have no control over the government. Incumbent office holders are the people who have the power to do corrupt things, not the challengers you support, and not you, the taxpayer.
Total transparency is something the government owes to you, NOT something that you owe to the government.
We strongly believe that if YOU want to express yourself freely, and be heard, regain control of your government, and be able to much more easily fire and replace your so-called elected representatives, then ALL aspects of the existing campaign finance laws must be overturned, including those that require the compulsory public disclosure of the names of donors or grass roots activists, like you.
Doe v. Reed
A new Supreme Court case, Doe v. Reed, may determine how your right to anonymity is treated. We do NOT get to choose the cases heard by the Supreme Court. But the court’s decision may affect your rights for years to come.
Washington state’s Secretary of State ruled that the names and addresses of people who signed a referendum petition be made available for their opponents to publish on the Internet. This case is controversial, because . . .
- The referendum petition was for one of those “defense of marriage” amendments.
- Just like our Quote of the Day states, one doesn’t have to agree with the position of the initiative to defend the right of those who signed it to remain anonymous.
- It appears intimidation was a real possibility in this case.
Those who opposed the “defense of marriage” initiative were understandably passionate about it. They wanted to publish the names of the petition signers online and have opponents of the initiative look for the names of people they know so they can, ominously, have a “difficult conversation” with them.
Would you find this intimidating?
We think the Golden Rule applies here . . .
If you ever want to be able to speak and act anonymously, then you must also protect this right for those with whom you disagree.
We’re participating in a coalition effort, working with the Free Speech Coalition, to file this amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief in the Supreme Court case, Doe v. Reed.
The expected cost is $15,000, and we need your help to cover a portion of this expense.
To contribute to this cause, mail a check or money order to:
1931 15th Street
Cuyahoga Falls, OH 44223
Or donate via the website at www.DownsizeDC.org