Two groups on opposite ends of the political spectrum agree on one thing: Disclosure should be avoided at all costs.
The liberal One Wisconsin Now and the conservative Wisconsin Club for Growth have joined forces to sue the state over new campaign finance disclosure rules that went into effect over the weekend. They'd obviously like to block these rules for the 2010 election season, if not for good.
It's hard to be against disclosure. That's undoubtedly why they are trying to claim that the rules approved by the state Government Accountability Board and reviewed by the Legislature are an unconstitutional violation of their free speech rights.
Never mind that the rules don't prevent them from airing any ad or otherwise spreading any message, but rather just require them to disclose how much they are spending and who's paying for it. They know that being for free speech is better than standing for secrecy, so they are relentlessly spinning this as a First Amendment case.
Their spin apparently made editors at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel dizzy, causing them to slap a headline over reporter Jason Stein's story that bears no relationship whatsoever to reality. It says "Political opposites protest ad rules; They file joint suit over new restrictions."
Restrictions? What restrictions? What activity is banned by these rules? What is being limited? What ad can't be aired? What can't be said? The rules just require disclosure.
So why are these groups so deathly afraid of disclosure that they go to such extreme lengths to mislead people about what these new state rules actually do?
Look, disclosure of who's behind a message and who's paying for it immeasurably helps the audience decide how much stock to put in that message. If you are told that Frigidaire makes better kitchen appliances than Maytag, it's pretty important to know whether that opinion comes from Consumer Reports or Frigidaire.
Special interests that want to own our government know that if the electorate is made fully aware of who they are and where their money comes from, voters will be much less likely to buy what these groups are selling.
That's why operating in the shadows is so very important to them. But they can't very well come out and say so. So after exploiting loopholes in the law for years to keep their election activities hidden from public view, now they are using the First Amendment to keep their true motives for working to keep those loopholes open a secret.
How terribly fitting.