Tl;dr—the important connection between Brendan Eich & Citizens United.
One of the few conservatives who can stand to follow me on Twitter, @atgrote, wrote up his reflections on Eich’s ouster. I’m not going to touch on every point of disagreement we have, here. But it is in my mind as I write.
The National Organization for Marriage (NOM) is the major force behind efforts to deny legal marriage to same-sex couples. They started with Prop 8 in California, which has since been ruled unconstitutional, and then reproduced their efforts across the country.
NOM has also been a significant actor in the realm of undermining and contesting political donation disclosure laws. They even hired the attorney behind Citizens United to advance the cause of anonymous political donations. They challenged disclosure requirements in Washington, Minnesota, New York, and Maine. Brendan Eich, and others similarly situated, are undoubtedly the people whose interests NOM was acting to protect by challenging disclosure requirements.
My point is that the marriage rights battle has developed an equally significant companion—the battle over whether individuals have a right to anonymously influence our democracy/political process with their wealth.
Eich donated to Prop 8. We know this because disclosure laws required that the donation be public information. (Incidentally, here is one of probably many people who are sympathetic with NOM and think this disclosure is somehow bad.) Eich’s $1,000 donation was a relatively modest token in a campaign that burned $80 million on influence/propaganda.
But Eich, like everyone in California, had at least two ways to demonstrate his support for Prop 8 that wouldn’t require public disclosure: donate less than $100, or simply cast a vote for it. He chose to donate above the threshold amount, because he wanted to contribute more than a de minimis amount to his favored cause.
And this is where the issue connects back with Citizens United and SCOTUS’s latest gift to people who want to trade wealth for influence, McCutcheon. If money is speech as a matter of law, it is more important than ever that the public retain its right to know who is holding the megaphones. If the wealthy can launder their identities through political influence organizations, their type of anonymous speech-via-wealth will have far more power than any kind of anonymous speech available to people using mere words.
The disclosure laws are an important check on people who have enough disposable wealth that they might not think twice about lending material financial support to political causes that would dwarf the contribution any ordinary person could make. They should have to think twice about whether they want to be personally connected to something that is (or could be) politically unpopular.
Without that check, democracy is fully subverted to anonymous wealth.
For Mr. Eich, he made his choice. And contrary to “allahpundit“‘s claim that “[t]he Prop 8 donor list now functions essentially as a blacklist,” Eich was Mozilla’s Chief Technology Officer for nearly 10 years, approximately half of them after he donated to Prop 8. There’s no evidence his donation affected his career in the slightest until he was elevated to Chief Executive.
Eich’s resignation is undoubtedly going to be used in the argument against disclosure. But on the whole, the effects of disclosure in this case were proportionate and justly meted out. CEO is a unique role, and is rightly held to a unique standard. Eich was not held to that standard until he was promoted.
Everything functioned correctly.