December 14, 2011 3:44PM

Does Mandated Disclosure Help Voters?

After the Citizens United decision, mandated disclosure of campaign spending has become the major tool of campaign finance reformers. The Supreme Court has validated forced disclosure as a way to inform voters about candidates. Knowing who supports an advertisement supposedly gives a voter a cue about a candidate’s positions and outlook. If labor unions support a candidate, a voter who supports (opposes) unions can then vote for (vote against) the candidate supported by the union.

David Primo reports on his research showing that voters do not use disclosed information in this way. He also finds that the disclosure process makes it harder to participate in politics.

For some time I have suspected that electoral players want disclosure so they can attack those who fund their speech favoring their opponents. Such attacks presumably make such fund (and such speech) less likely. Disclosure is just a weapon in the ongoing electoral struggle.