Campaign finance disclosure laws vary by state, but state frameworks tend to share commonalities. Most disclosure laws a) require candidates, political committees and other entities that primarily work to elect or defeat candidates to register with the state and b) to file periodic reports about their contributions, expenditures and donors.
Legal analyses of campaign finance laws typically focus on the tension between the government’s interests in regulating money in politics and the potential abridgment of freedom of speech as protected by the First Amendment. The U.S. Supreme Court has consistently upheld the constitutionality of disclosure requirements. In Buckley v. Valeo (1976), the Court held that reporting and disclosure laws can serve governmental interests in three ways. First, the laws may help voters to evaluate candidates by providing information about funding sources. Second, the laws can help to deter quid pro quo corruption and the appearance of it. Third, disclosure requirements provide information necessary to detect violations of the law. The Court reinforced this holding in McConnell v. FEC (2003) and Citizens United v. FEC (2010).