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Business Week: Political Front Groups Have It Backward

In the Business Week Debate Room, CU President David Bossie responds to the topic “U.S. Political front groups that don’t have to disclose donors’ identities are inherently unethical. Pro or con?”

Con: A Venerable Tradition

To call organizations that engage in political speech while protecting the identities of their donors “front groups” that are “inherently unethical” ignores our nation’s rich history of political speech. When Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay published the Federalist Papers, a series of essays that shaped the debate regarding ratification of the U.S. Constitution, they did so anonymously under the pseudonym of “Publius.” These founding fathers’ words and arguments have stood the test of time and remain essential texts for all who seek to understand our Constitution and our form of government.

The writers of the Federalist Papers count as just one example of anonymous pamphleteers who existed at our nation’s founding. Anonymous political speech is a key component of the American system of government. Today groups that include Citizens United, American Action Network, and Crossroads GPS carry on this tradition, engaging in political speech without disclosing the identity of their members. They choose anonymity in order to protect individuals’ right to engage in speech without fear of reprisal.

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This kind of political speech is protected by the First Amendment but for years was criminalized by the McCain-Feingold legislation and by the bureaucrats tasked with enforcing it. The Supreme Court restored this fundamental right to political speech in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. The fact that groups now seek to exercise these restored rights does not make them unethical; it makes them American.

Read the Pro side of the argument…

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