I’ve almost always been opposed to any limits on campaign spending, campaign contributions, or spending by single-issue advocacy groups, nor am I fond of most of the other power-preservation techniques the media-coastal elite promote as “campaign finance reform.” That said, having lived in Illinois, I do know that it matters if the few guys that contribute to the campaign of a senator or governor miraculously also get all kinds of government contracts, sinecure power-sharing jobs, and the like. In other words, some disclosure of spending to politicians may be warranted to detect corruption associated certain kinds of lobbying.
I would make distinctions between spending tied to personal financial gain and those tied to the concerns of the broader community. Surely, political action and spending activity is on a bit of a continuum. On one extreme, are purely ideological groups like the NRA and the ACLU. On the other are the Aluminum Manufacturers Association or the National Association of Home Builders. Perhaps a third group would be groups like AIPAC or the Serbian Unity Congress that have formal and informal ties with foreign powers. More middling groups would be organizations like the AMA or the AARP. The latter seek goods for their members, but those members are sufficiently disbursed among the community to have at least some arguable claim on the public interest.
One problem with reporting political donations is that groups fighting for purely ideological goods are lumped in with groups engaged in naked rent-seeking. In California, this reporting requirement has led to particularly ugly outcomes, as otherwise anonymous opponents of gay marriage have been harassed, boycotted, and unable quietly to support a cause they believe in. A website has even popped up to show anyone and everyone the opponents’ home addresses.
Those who contribute to political causes are a distinct minority in society. They exercise disproportionate power. It’s appropriate that corruption be detected and avoided, and thus ordinary political donations above a certain amount probably should be reported, but beyond this requirement most of the the campaign finance rules are noxious, tending to empower incumbents and the mainstream media above organized pluralities of decentralized citizens. Even distinguishing one lobbying from another carries with it certain risks, as groups on the margins like AIPAC or the AARP are clearly in the middle of the spectrum of rent-seeking and purely ideological political activity, and any set of rules should probably err on the side of nondisclosure.
In no sensible world, however, should Americans be required to condition their First Amendment right to anonymous speech, including the “speech” of supporting political causes, on the risks of harassment by violent opponents, such as certain cadres of gay marriage supporters in the counter-cultural cesspool that is California. Far from ending corruption, this leads to a new kind of corruption, the corruption of private violence against those with popular or at least defensible views from organized and recalcitrant factions.