Eisenach Supports Openness in Political Speech, Even on the Web
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Fervent calls to exempt Web-based political activities from campaign disclosure laws and to restrict further the use of voter information in the name of privacy protection should not be heeded, according to PFF President Jeffery A. Eisenach, because both actions are unnecessary and could diminish American democracy and the future of the Internet.
“At the end of the day, each of these suggested remedies rests on the principle that less information is better,” writes Eisenach in Political Privacy: Is Less Information Really Better, his initial Progress on Point commentary for 2002. “It is a principle that is fundamentally at odds with American political tradition, and if followed will lead to a less vibrant, less representative, less competitive and less reliable American polity.”
This puts him at odds with those who argue for special protections for anonymity in political speech on the Web. But, evoking Supreme Court decisions Buckley v. Valeo and McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Commission and Justice Brandeis’ admonition to let sunshine act as a political disinfectant, he maintains they are better served by the free flow of information. “Those who love the Web, and truly wish it to achieve its potential to further revolutionize politics, should be the last to want it to be moved out of the sunshine of disclosure and into the darkness of secrecy and deceit,” he writes.
Eisenach holds to the same principle on targeted political marketing, calling it “a benefit, not a cost, of the digital revolution.” He says TPM reduces unwanted communications, allows under-funded and minority voices to be heard and is responsive to consumer privacy preferences.
“[TPM], as in the commercial marketplace, has generated lots of heated and rhetorically charged criticism, little if any of which seems to be backed up by data, or even persuasive anecdotal evidence, suggesting that anyone is actually harmed,” he writes. “To the contrary, better information makes for both better markets and better campaigns, benefits we will be denied if we heed calls for increased regulations.”
The Progress & Freedom Foundation is a market-oriented think tank that studies the digital revolution and its implications for public policy. It is a 501(c)(3) research & educational organization.