Monday, July 16, 2012

Oh, My!

It isn't often that I agree with the Washington Post editorial board, but this is one of those times. In an editorial entitled "Expose the Fat Cats," WaPo came down unequivocally in favor of requiring those groups paying for political ads to reveal the sources of their donations.

AMERICANS WHO are worried about the corrosive power of big money in politics ought to watch what is about to happen in the Senate. On Monday, a cloture vote is scheduled on legislation that would require the disclosure of donors anonymously pumping tens of millions of dollars into this year’s presidential and congressional campaigns. Not a single Republican in the chamber has expressed support for the bill, known as the Disclose Act, meaning it will probably die for this session. It should be interesting to hear how the Republican senators justify this monumental concealment of campaign cash. ...

Until recently, Republicans supported full disclosure. Now that the tide of money is running in their favor, they don’t. Their rationale is that exposure might squelch the constitutional rights of donors. In fact, the court has upheld the constitutionality of disclosure. The Disclosure Act is a reasonable bill that would, among other things, require identification of donors of $10,000 or more to certain organizations that spend money on political campaigns.
[Emphasis added]

Those "certain organizations" are primarily those groups known as 501(c)4 groups, non profit organizations which are supposed to be about "education" and the like, but which in the election cycles since Citizens United, are purely political in nature. Groups like Karl Rove's Global GPS have been have been flooding the airwaves with attack ads designed to bring down Democrats in the House, Senate, and White House. Unlike Super PACs, the 501(c)4 organizations are not required to file reports with the FEC listing their donors, which means tens of thousands of dollars are funneled secretly into the process.

The excuse usually offered is that revealing the donors' names is an unconstitutional infringement on donors' rights to privacy and free speech, an excuse which simply doesn't hold any more water than the claims that these are "educational groups." One of the arguments used by the Supreme Court in Citizens United was that the reporting requirements of the Super PACs provides all the transparency that is required during an election.

The Disclose Act would end that bit of chicanery, which the GOP simply is not interested in, mainly because Republicans are the primary beneficiaries. Like the editorialist states, it will be interesting to see what kind of excuse is proffered to avoid the vote today.

Hopefully, the Democrats use whatever justification is offered as a bludgeon for the next four months.

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Blogger Charles said...

A shame the Republicans didn't consider violation of privacy when it came to small donors. Not only is one's name easily searchable if you gave $200 or more to a candidate, the idiots at HuffPo made the raw FEC files Google searchable, so your name and address may be available to the public if you gave even a donation of $50. So now, big donors have perfect privacy, while small donors have zero. Seems fair.

1:29 PM  
Blogger Charles said...

Adding: looks like the idiots at HuffPo may have corrected the glitch that was displaying very small donors. Still. Losing one's privacy for a $200 donation is a big deal for those of us who might have to get a job sometime.

1:42 PM  

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