Sorry Jon Huntsman, You Don't Get My $100 Because I Don't Want Google to Know About Our Relationship


Earlier this week, a friend invited me to a small meet-and-greet event with Republican presidential possibility and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman. I'd enjoy the chance to see the better Mormon candidate in the flesh as much as the next gal, but there was a catch: The price of admission was a small donation. I don't mind spending $100 to meet a guy who seems like he might be a viable less-bad-than-other-Republicans option. What I do mind is having that fact splashed all over my Google search results. And splashed it would be, thanks to state and federal laws that force candidates to periodically reveal their donors, and sites that take that donor data and make it handily searchable and (more importantly) indexable by search engines.

As a journalist I love the gush of data that the government forces into sites like Open Secrets. It makes my job easier. But that kind of forced disclosure should give private citizens the heebie jeebies—and make everyone think twice about giving. To happen across my campaign contributions (don't bother, there are none) you would have to get pretty deep into my Google results. But for people who don't have much of an Internet presence, campaign contributions increasingly pop up into their top 10 search results. You know, the results that employers and blind dates are likely to see before they even meet you. 

And juicy information like that doesn't go away. In fact, this particular set of information is unlikely to decay or fade away into the grey mush of the web. Not when the folks at Sunlight Foundation are creating tools like Inbox Influence. Announced yesterday, it works like this: You install a little add-on in your browser and voila, a sidebar shows up disclosing every campaign contribution of every person you email with. Ever.

Here's a little explainer: 

Journalists enjoy being paranoid about disclosing which candidates they support, which is silly. (We here at Reason have no such hangups.) Not admitting your biases doesn't make them go away. But a very public record of moolah moving from the Mangu-Ward bank account into Huntsman's coffers would be easy to misinterpret—and disclosure laws don't let me attach an asterisk to that money that labels it as curiosity cash rather than endorsement dollars.

So I don't get to meet Huntsman, Huntsman doesn't get my money, my friend's party is one person smaller, and everybody loses. And meanwhile, I just spent half an hour donation-stalking the friends and enemies in my inbox. Consider any thought of future political giving—a form of political speech in my book—well and truly chilled. 

Also, speaking of Mormons and campaign finance disclosure: this.

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  1. lol, never thought about it liek that dude.

    1. Learn to fucking spell, WizMoo.

      1. I would read a comic book about war between spelling Nazis and adbots.

      2. That’s how we know it’s not a ‘bot.

  2. Don’t you think just prefacing a writeup of the meet & greet with the fact that it cost you a $100 donation to get in would be sufficient? Elsewise, it seems the law is working. You don’t want to be publicly associated so you withheld your donation. One assumes that candidates also refund dontations they don’t want to publicly disclose. Seems like one of the few campaign finance laws that actually balances free speech with public interest.

    1. Don’t you think just prefacing a writeup of the meet & greet with the fact that it cost you a $100 donation to get in would be sufficient?

      That preface will only be available to people who read the article, and will not affect at all his inclusion in various databases, and the consequences of being in those databases.

      1. Ah. I see that. Still. If a reporter is publicly uncomfortable with paying $100 to a campaign for a chance to shake hands and observe, it seems like other persons with less benevolent motives also might be discouraged. Also, try calling the campaign office next time. I’ve been to a ton of $X/head events where making or having a friend make a phone call got me in on a courtesy. And I’m not a poltical power nor do I have any TV spots.

        1. I thought that in 2011 we’re all reporters.

    2. Yeah, they should be able to disclose who we vote for too. No harm in that…

      1. No harm in that…

        What is the harm in disclosing your voting record?

        Why are the results of secret ballot elections more desirable then published ballot elections?

        Do cowards vote better then the brave?

        1. The harm in disclosing your voting record is that it makes it easier to sell your vote.

          1. Why? Because the payer has a way of confirming your action? What are they going to do? Confront you with some sort of breach-of-contract suit confirming their bribery?

            1. No, fire you. Bosses do that kind of thing even when they don’t have crazy hair.

              1. You want to work for a boss who will fire you based on your vote? Isn’t he or she in the same quandry w/r/t the next boss or stockholders? This makes no sense. My co-workers talk politics all the time. We have yet to hold any firings. Its a nice bogeyman, though.

          2. It also makes it easy for a corpse to vote.

            Is your hypothetical harm greater then the real harm of voter fraud?

        2. Well, yes. The fact of the matter is, eventually either some Republicans or Democrats (note: it will be Democrats) are going to organize in one of their strongholds (probably San Fascisco) to essentially drive the opposition out into exile by making them unemployable — some employers will go along because they agree, others will be harassed into firing their conservative employees.

          Republicans will then feel justified in responding in kind. The country will become more polarized — politics won’t just be something that’s a small part of your life, it will become the basis for segregating society in many states.

          Combine that polarization with the fact that one side represents more of the makers and one side represents more of the takers, and you’ve got a perfect recipe for civil war.

  3. You didn’t miss anything, Kate. Most people in Utah know Huntsman is not Mormon anyway.

    He’s very “casual” in his beliefs and has been distancing himself from the church lately now that he doesn’t need the Mormon vote.

  4. How does not meeting Huntsmen count as losing? If I go the whole campaign cycle and never meet any of the candidates I’ll consider myself a winner.

    Could you not get a press credential or have a friend pay the $100 for you or some other loophole?

    1. I met all of the candidates for governor in Florida at some lawyer function back before Crist was elected. I think maybe I’m finally free of contamination.

      1. That was a truly bad class of candidates.

        1. And the worst won. I spoke to Jim Davis for a few minutes, the rest were just handshakes and some meaningless statements.

    2. Could you not get a press credential or have a friend pay the $100 for you or some other loophole?

      This. The only way I could see that not working is if her friend is maxed out on the contribution limit, or if Huntsman’s campaign is foolish enough to actually require each attendee to contribute $100 or more (rather than giving out a ticket for every $100 contributed)

  5. Not admitting your biases doesn’t make them go away.

    I know it’s not central to KMW’s main point, but this seems like a silly comment to me. Nobody thinks that admitting biases makes them go away. The idea is that admitting biases allows a reader to take them into account while reading an article.

    1. And, IIUHC, her point is that most journos don’t say who they like in a misguided attempt to appear objective.

  6. Don’t you only have to disclose donations over $200?


      You should be fine with $100, only over $200 is when you show up on any lists. So enjoy meeting Huntsman

      1. What, you think that just because that’s what the rules say, that’s what the feds do?

      2. Nick is right, sort of. The law requires donations to be reported if over $200. But candidates are allowed to report donations in any amount, and some of them do. So if she donated $100 she might not be disclosed.

  7. There’s an easy way around this: give your friend $100 and have her buy you a ticket.

    1. I’m sure it’s a violation of federal law to have someone else donate money for you with the intention of avoiding campaign finance reporting laws.

      1. But are you making a donation or buying a ticket?

        1. I got on a state contribution list for buying a “Kinky Friedman for Governor” t-shirt for $20. Receiving merchandise and/or entertainment in return doesn’t mean it won’t be counted as a contribution and reported as one.

  8. I wonder how big of a donation it takes to get in the discreet VIP room with Huntsman.

    1. Remember, there’s no sex in the champagne room. There’s pictures of Wiener, but no sex.

      1. Are Boehner’s allowed in the Champagne room?

  9. Couldn’t you just come up with different email address, one for your political self, one for your commercial self, one for your professional self, one for your personal self, one for your sexual deviant self? How do they match email addresses with actual contributions?

  10. give your friend $100 and have her buy you a ticket.

    Go directly to Jail.
    Do not pass Go, do not collect two hundred dollars.

    1. “I want my two dollars!”

      1. “My little brother got his arm stuck in the microwave. So my mom had to take him to the hospital. My grandma dropped acid this morning, and she freaked out. She hijacked a busload of penguins. So it’s sort of a family crisis. Bye!”


      1. Perhaps he could shorten it to Mike Hunt. Who wouldn’t want to vote for Mike Hunt?

  11. Pay the $100 and being paranoid. You’re not THAT famous. No one really cares.

  12. So, you don’t mind being shaken down by a politician, you just don’t want anyone to know about it? Katie, I think you need a jet-pak, so you can get to the next meeting of the “Journalists Against the Free Dissemination of Information Society” on time. Everybody loses? Maybe not.

    1. Everybody loses? Maybe not.

      I want to know who journalists contribute to.

      I would not lose.

      1. I want to know who journalists contribute to.

        Journalists are private citizens, Comrade.

        1. So they should be exempt from laws that other private citizens have to follow? I might want to know who the local sleazebag slumlord is donating to as well. He or she is also a private citizen but that doesn’t mean they have no public presence. Until the effect of politics on money is so small that there is no point in affecting politics with money, I think full disclosure is the least evil path.

          1. Until the effect of politics on money is so small that there is no point in affecting politics with money, I think full disclosure is the least evil path.

            The effect is already small….a recent study i recall discussed on NPR after the 2010 election showed that money only swayed voters by less then 1%.

        2. Comrade.

          Just because i gain from it does not mean i follow its ideology.

          It is often supposed that white people today benefit from all the work black slaves did back in the bad old days.

          As a white man does this mean I support slavery?

  13. I’m lucky, I share a name with a famous musician so anything about me on Google is buried a few hundred thousand pages down. LOL.

    1. Yeah, between the real estate agent and the author, you’ve got to dig pretty damned deep in the google results to get to me.

  14. Consider any thought of future political giving?a form of political speech in my book?well and truly chilled.

    Ummm does the freedom of speech include the right to anonymity?

    I am not saying that one has the right to know who said what…but if someone speaks and another person know who said it are you implying that person can be silenced from telling anyone about it?

    1. Saying people shouldn’t be forced to speak does not imply people should be forced to not speak.

      1. no idea how that pertains to my comments.

        no one is being forced to speak or not to speak.

        Mangu is making the choice not to speak on the grounds that it will be public and then claiming that her speech was chilled.

        1. Huntsman is being forced to speak, specifically forced to speak to who his donors are.

          KMW is making a choice to not attend, but only because of a government regulation, nothing to do with the politician.

          If Huntsman was not being forced to disclose, but doing it on his own initiative, then KMW would be choosing not to attend because she disagrees with the politician’s choice. That’s an important difference.

          1. Again I do not think speech has the included right of anonymity.

            If you speak in the public square can I not record and quote you?

            Why is speech in the public square using money different?

            Note: you could be right and I am playing the bit of devil’s advocate. Still i think Mangu is overstating her case. She did have a choice and she could have spoke with her money and if the great sin is a hypothetical “chilling” of speech I think as a libertarian there are bigger fish to fry.

            The ability to choose to spend money in the first place and it being protected as speech being one.

  15. I’m often contacted by new clients I know nothing about. Some of the time a quick look at google fails to turn up much about them – except their campaign contributions. I will occasionally use this information in quoting prices. The big Obama donor paid a bit extra for the trouble he caused. The John Edwards donor paid off my wife’s car (instead of just keeping it in gas for a month).

  16. Katharine, you just made me think. I don’t usually do that after reading a Reason article. Look what you did.

  17. Anything that makes anyone less likely to give money to politicians is alright by me.

  18. Jon’s Named a Whole Generation After Himself (what’s next?)
    As if being a beauty queen weren’t enough to quench the thirst of Jon Huntsman Jr.’s ego, he has suddenly decided to name an entire generation after himself.
    You remember Generation X, don’t you, and the several generations that have succeeded it?
    Well, as if Huntsman were running the world already, he has declared that we are all a part of Generation H. It’s a generation that rocks! Cool!
    And the “H” doesn’t stand for Hogwash, at least not in his mind.

    A new online form soliciting donations for the Huntsman for President campaign is headed by the declaration: “Invest in Generation H. The election of a truly different president.”
    Why do all these guys, Obama included, say they’re going to be truly different when in fact they are truly more of the same?
    One little problem with the “Generation H” moniker (or maybe it makes perfect sense) is that it’s already being used by a couple of rather tawdry national businesses.
    One of them is a work-from-home-and-get-rich pyramid scheme, although its promotional material does sound as if it’s part of Jon’s campaign rhetoric:
    “Become part of a worldwide community made up of people like you! Inspire and be inspired, as you party with successful GenH-ers on the road to success. Generation H is about more than making money; its about helping other people and making a difference to their lives.”
    Maybe Jon should just get a job there, and leave the rest of us alone.
    The other Generation H that preceded Jon’s is comprised of those under 30 who have become successful Herbalife distributors. Herbalife, yet another Ponzi multi-level sales outfit, is so notorious that it feels the need to answer the question “Are you a cult?” on its website.
    If only it were, Jon could be its leader and LEAVE AMERICA ALONE!
    All of us, even the right-wing wackos, must rise up and refuse to permit this aging Ken doll to name our generation after himself.
    I’m joining Generation P — and “P” is for pissed!

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