Last week was one of mixed blessings for those engaged in the U.S. political process. On the positive side, the U.S. Supreme Court – by a 5-4 margin – struck down overall limits on campaign contributions. Unfortunately, the pendulum swung in the opposite direction for Brendan Eich, co-founder and chief executive officer of Mozilla, who resigned after the Los Angeles Times disclosed his $1,000 contribution in support of California’s 2012 Proposition 8.
Eich’s unfortunate circumstances bring to mind the many proxy resolutions submitted to a plethora of companies each year by so-called religious shareholders such as As You Sow and the Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility. These resolutions bleat endlessly of the need for transparency in corporate lobbying, political expenses and donations to the American Legislative Exchange Council and The Heartland Institute. The call for transparency, however, is a ruse – what’s most important is shaming the companies publicly so they’ll give up fighting for their First Amendment rights.
Regardless readers’ thoughts on Citizens United, Eich wasn’t donating on behalf of Mozilla but only for himself. Connecting the two requires significant mental gymnastics. Prop 8, readers will recall, was a ballot proposal that sought to preserve the traditional definition of marriage as between a man and a woman. Whether agreeing or disagreeing with the proposal is not the issue – at least for reasonable people. The issue is a private citizen made a modest donation for an issue in which he felt strongly enough to contribute a thousand bucks, and was publicly shamed to the point of resigning his position. Such are the real costs of public disclosure of private political donations.
Once Eich’s donation became public knowledge, the floodgates of protest opened. Prop 8 opponents circulated a petition to remove Eich from Mozilla’s top job. Eich was punished by those with whom he disagreed politically in much the same fashion Target Corp. was … err … targeted by same-sex marriage advocates for supporting Minnesota gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer. Target, apparently admiring the cut of Emmer’s jib when it came to business issues, donated $150,000 to MN Forward, a pro-business political action group supporting Emmer’s campaign. However, Emmer also was no fan of same-sex marriage, the perceived impertinence of which wrought massive castigation from gay-rights activists across the country. Again, connecting the two issues requires substantial mental gymnastics.
The craziness of these name-and-shame campaigns continues apace. Rather than encouraging discourse, the goal is to shut down one’s opposition. It’s gone far beyond who spends the most money and into the realm of which side is the biggest bully. Thus far, the progressives seem to be winning that battle.