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Fri Sep 15, 2017, 01:18 PM

Trump's FEC nominee has questioned the value of disclosing political donors

Analysis. Also see: Trump's Big Law FEC Nominee Under Fire for Tweets, Views

NEW: Trump's FEC nominee has questioned the value of disclosing political donors

Trump’s FEC nominee has questioned the value of disclosing political donors

By Matea Gold September 15 at 12:20 PM

James E. “Trey” Trainor III, the conservative Texas lawyer nominated by President Trump this week to serve on the Federal Election Commission, has challenged the principle that the public benefits from the disclosure of political donors, arguing that voters could be distracted from the content of political messages if they focus on who is financing ads.

Trainor's stance on disclosure is counter to the position that Trump himself took during the 2016 presidential campaign, when he called for more transparency of donors behind big-money groups. “I don’t mind the money coming in,” the then-candidate told Time magazine in August 2015. “Let it be transparent. Let them talk, but let there be total transparency.”

In media appearances and public forums, Trainor has made the case that the Federalist Papers succeeded in promoting the ratification of the U.S. Constitution because Founding Fathers Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay wrote them under the pseudonym Publius. And he appeared to erroneously suggest that the Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United decision endorsed anonymous political contributions.

“The reason {the Federalist Papers} were published anonymously is because they wanted the effectiveness of their ideas to win, not who was saying it to win the arguments,” Trainor said during a March appearance on a conservative webcast. “And ultimately that’s what Citizens United has decided and why it’s just such a terrible idea to have that rolled back.” ... In fact, the Supreme Court upheld the concept of donor disclosure in Citizens United v. FEC, which allowed corporations to spend unlimited sums on independent political activity. “This transparency enables the electorate to make informed decisions and give proper weight to different speakers and messages,” the majority wrote.

Matea Gold is a national political reporter for The Washington Post, covering money and influence. Follow @mateagold

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