Proposed disclosure rules are a problem | My View

It is a real shame that the powerful New Mexico Secretary of State is blatantly resorting to discredited political “disclosure” tactics, dismissed as illegal long ago, in requiring that political donors must publicly identify themselves for all to see and take retaliatory action (“Secretary of state revises her proposal on campaign contributions,” July 26).

The proposal represents an attempt to put competing political parties out of business. This would place in jeopardy the income, personal safety and peace of mind of donors, thus uniting minority organizations of every nature, including political organizations in opposition.

The proposed rules, vetoed in legislation by the governor, are supposedly intended to provide “disclosure.” They fly in the face of the right of privacy, which is under attack and is fundamental to our way of government.

Let’s look at legal developments regarding the right of privacy. Cases go back to the civil rights struggles of the 1950s and 1960s. The segregationists used such rules to prevent opposition from forming. That is what is going on today. At that time, Southern states demanded membership information of civil rights groups so they could intimidate members. Groups feared retaliation. A unanimous United States Supreme Court in NAACP v. Alabama ex. Rel. Patterson, 357 U.S. 449 (1958), held that private groups could keep membership information confidential.

Justice John Marshall Harlan II wrote, “This Court has recognized the vital relationship between freedom to associate and privacy in one’s associations. …” Harlan said that the NAACP had proved that in the past, making its membership information public had exposed members to economic reprisal, loss of employment, threat of physical coercion and other aspects of physical hostility. He said that compelling disclosure of membership might encourage some to leave the organization and discourage others from joining.

As a young law student in North Carolina at Duke at the time, I witnessed firsthand the negative impact of disclosure on competing organizations the majority wanted to put out of business. Please do not make the mistake of 50 years ago part of New Mexico’s legacy.

Richard H. Rogers practiced international business law worldwide, including Illinois and Ohio. He then managed a huge water distribution project in Libya and Turkey. In Santa Fe, he co-published Santa Fe Monthly magazine and now co-publishes Attorney at Law magazine for the lawyers of New Mexico.