Campaign finance disclosure is under threat. While the Court continues to uphold mandatory disclosure, it has also eviscerated much of the legal justification for it. Simultaneously, gaps in the legal framework mean that some campaign activity is subject only to voluntary disclosure – consider “dark money” groups and unregulated Internet campaign advertising. In upholding the parts of the campaign finance regime that mandate disclosure, the Court has assumed that disclosure provides valuable policy information to voters, but it has not considered non-policy information that voters learn about candidates from the choice to disclose more than is legally required. This article provides new survey and experimental evidence that voters value disclosure of campaign finance information and will reward voluntary disclosure while punishing candidates supported by dark money groups. Voluntary disclosure signals transparency and thus trustworthiness. The importance of the second kind of information has not been previously recognized and suggests a role for voluntary as well as mandatory disclosure.


Law | Law and Politics

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