New from US campaigning

As we covered at the time, a feature of US elections is referendums on social issues, and an important one that happened last year was California’s Proposition 8.  Californian courts had ruled that marriage should be available to gay couples. Voters were asked whether they wished to change the constitution to revert to the status ante quo and remove marriage as an option for homosexuals.

The campaign was hard fought and tons of money was raised on each side.  Donations over a $100 had to be registered with records made publicly available.   During the campaign, there was some evidence that those campaigning for a “Yes” vote were attempting to blackmail companies who’d donated to the “No” campaign by threatening them with publicity and boycotts from the religious right.  And on the other side, proponents of the No campaign eventually forced the resignation of a theatre’s artistic director following the revelation that he had donated to the Yes campaign.  I cite both examples as evidence that there have been consequences for donors on both sides of the argument as a result of giving money to one or other of the campaigns.

These consequences led to supporters of Proposition 8 attempting to get the law changed to keep donors names and addresses out of the public domain.  This attempt failed this week with a federal judge ruling the records should remain public.

The details of thousands of people who donated more than $100 to the Yes campaign are available on a sophisticated map that appears to plot exactly where they live.  Campaigners report threats of boycott, death threats and picketing.

It’s a finely balanced issue.  It’s clear that public policy should not be decided in secret on the basis of large donations that no-one can track.  But on the other hand, should people be discouraged from making donations on sensitive issues of policy for fear of reprisals if their neighbours find out?  And would you be happy if donations to political parties and campaigns put your name and address on a public map like the one at ?

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This entry was posted in LDVUSA.

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