Cato Seeks Elimination of Disclosure Requirements for Ballot Measure Donors

The CATO Institute, a Washington D.C. think tank known for its libertarian bent, last week called for eliminating disclosure requirements for those who contribute funds in support or opposition of ballot measures (referendums). Existing requirements are already much weaker than those for donors to political candidates. Cato’s position could arguably have been heavily influenced by Howie Rich, a real estate investor and Cato board member. Last year, Rich helped to sponsor sixteen different ballot initiatives, including the “Taxpayer Bill of Rights” (TABOR) in eight states. Courts in five of the states ultimately removed TABOR from the ballot for various reasons, including what one Montana judge called a “pervasive and general pattern of fraud” by Rich and others in their campaign to pass the referendum. Kristina Wilfore, executive director of the pro-referendum Ballot Initiative Strategy Center, responded to Cato’s call by stating, “The problem with being a front group for corporate fat cats like Exxon, Enron, and Howie Rich, is that you are always a little out-of-touch with the public... CATO aligning itself with more corruption in political giving is taking the side of the powerful against the people -- and they call themselves libertarian?”