Censorship of certain types of political speech is a reality in Colorado, where it is illegal (for example) to publish an anonymous book or pamphlet that the government deems to be campaigning for or against a candidate or ballot measure, if as little as $200 is spent to produce it.
The Founders who wrote and ratified the First Amendment—and who published many political advocacy documents anonymously—would be astounded and horrified that Colorado and other states censor anonymous political speech.
Although the Supreme Court’s groundbreaking Citizens United decision threw out blanket prohibitions on groups of people (including corporations) spending money on political speech (see Steve Simpson’s article), government remained legally free to require speakers to report their identities and expenditures, thereby outlawing anonymous speech.
The latest legal battle regarding such censorship laws is taking place in Colorado, with Citizens United again on the front line. The group wishes to produce a film titled Rocky Mountain Heist to critique incumbent governor John Hickenlooper. Although obviously Citizens United does not wish to remain anonymous, it wishes for its donors who support the film to remain anonymous. Under Colorado law, Citizens United may produce the film only if it reports to the government the identities of its donors and its expenditures.
Such laws clearly violate people’s right to freedom of speech. People have a moral right to speak about politics, to organize into groups to do so, to raise and spend money to do so, and to speak anonymously if they wish. Those who do not like anonymous speech are free to ignore it, criticize it, or request that the speakers reveal their identities and expenditures. But they have no moral right to stop anonymous speech. . . .