Institute for Justice on Campaign-Finance Laws:

The Institute for Justice has a new study on state campaign-finance laws that focuses on the impact of state campaign-finance laws and especially the impact of these laws on grass-roots activism, such as on ballot initiatives. I'm not an expert on the constitutional questions this may raise, but from a policy perspective it seems to me that these laws are quite overbroad in the way it applies to at least some sorts of grass-roots activity and that in those situations the laws impose serious costs on ordinary citizens with little conceivable benefit.

The study is here.

Steve Simpson of IJ has an NRO column describing their poll findings here:

All 24 states that permit citizen initiatives have similar regulations. The driving force behind such laws is the idea of "disclosure" — that groups who favor or oppose a ballot issue should be required to reveal information about their donors and activities to the government and the public. To proponents, the idea seems a harmless way to ensure an informed electorate.

Not surprisingly, most people agree. The Institute for Justice polled more than 2,000 citizens in six states with ballot issue elections, and found that people overwhelmingly agree with the idea of disclosure.

But when people are faced with the reality of disclosure, their support turns to opposition. Fifty-six percent of those polled oppose having to reveal their name, address and contribution amount, and fully 71 percent oppose being forced to reveal their employer's name. Moreover, most respondents say they would likely "think twice" before making a contribution if it means revealing personal information to the government.

In other words, citizens themselves admit disclosure laws have a chilling effect on their free-speech rights, making them less likely to exercise those rights by contributing to a cause they believe in.

For more on the grass-roots neighborhood activists described in the column, see here. IJ took over their defense after they had previoulsy hired their own lawyer to defend them in the case.