Romney's Not The Only One Refusing To Disclose
Yesterday Senate Republicans were in synch with their secretive, deceitful presidential nominee when they filibustered-- once again-- the DISCLOSE Act. It first passed the House just over two years ago-- obviously before Boehner and Cantor took over-- 219-206, only two Republicans voting with the American people for transparency in election finance. I can't imagine it will surprise any readers of this blog that 36 mostly Blue Dogs and New Dems voted with the GOP back then, most of them subsequently wiped out in the Great Blue Dog Apocalypse of 2010 five months later, Democrats unwilling to vote for corrupt conservatives making believe they are Democrats. At the time, I wrote that the DISCLOSE Act would have made a vast and substantial difference in protecting the integrity of American elections. The DISCLOSE Act, which is the most far-reaching campaign finance reform since McCain-Feingold, is meant to:
• Prevent government contractors from spending money on elections;
• Prevent corporate beneficiaries of TARP from spending money on elections;
• Prevent foreign nations, companies and individuals, or U.S. corporations controlled by foreign governments, from exerting influence on U.S. elections;
• Prevent campaign spenders from coordinating their activities with candidates and parties, thereby halting manipulation of elections by fly-by-night hit groups funded by corporations such as BP, special interests, foreign companies, and multimillionaires;
• Strengthen disclosure of electioneering communications, exposing Wall Street, Big Oil, insurance companies, and other special interest groups behind last minute attack ads and other election ads, and requiring their CEOs to stand by their ads;
• Enhance requirements for public disclosure of political expenditures by corporations, unions and non-profit organizations;
• Enhance disclaimers in ads, requiring sponsors and top donors to identify themselves and take responsibility for their ads;
• Require organizations that lobby to disclose political expenditures under the Lobbying Disclosure Act; and,
• Enhance requirements for disclosure of political expenditures to corporate shareholders and member of other organizations.
That was June. By September the Senate Republicans-- all of them--filibustered the bill and killed it. It was a party-line vote, so even the GOP swingers like Scott Brown, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins were part of the filibuster... and even the worst sacks of Democratic garbage, like Ben Nelson, Evan Bayh and Blanche Lincoln voted for cloture. It lost by one vote. Scott Brown, who likes to make belief he's a moderate and an independent could have saved it. He stood with the plutocracy and with Wall Street, not with the citizens of Massachusetts though. So what do you think happened yesterday when Harry Reid tried to shut down the Republican filibuster on Sheldon Whitehouse's bill again? It failed again-- every Republican again voting NO and all the Democrats voting for transparency. No shame!
Apparently Republican senators not only don't care what their own constituents say about transparency, they don't even care about what the editorial board of the Washington Post says about it. This was the editorial they ran a couple days before the vote:
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.
Before the Watergate scandals-- for those who may not recall-- money ran wild in American politics. One man, W. Clement Stone, gave more than $2 million to President Richard M. Nixon’s 1972 reelection campaign. The Watergate break-in was financed with secret campaign contributions. Fat cats plunked down cash for ambassadorships, and corporations for special treatment. The scandal led to landmark campaign finance reforms, enacted in 1974. For many years since, Republicans and Democrats broadly supported the idea of full disclosure.
That consensus has broken down and thrown the country back to the unruly days before Watergate. We seem to have created the political equivalent of secret Swiss bank accounts. The Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision opened the door to unlimited donations by corporations, wealthy individuals and labor unions. The sheer size of the donations flowing into groups sponsoring political advertising is alarming enough. But the secrecy is also corrosive for democracy. Who is writing checks for $10 million or $1 million at a single throw, and what do they want? We don’t know, and this shadowy bazaar undermines our political system.
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.
Credibility is a precious thing. In their lust for contributions, in cozying up to the moneybags of this era, candidates and political operatives in both parties seem to be forgetting that they put their own credibility at risk. There is a very good chance that when some government decision or vote comes along next year, responsible politicians will find themselves haunted by the secret money of the 2012 campaign.
Is it really worth it? Do these donors deserve to remain hidden? Why can’t they handle a little sunshine? We’d like to see a few courageous Republicans rise in the Senate on Monday and declare: Enough is enough.
Romney may be delighted that Senate Republicans-- in lockstep-- had his back yesterday. But President Obama had a far more serious perspective he released shortly after the vote:
Two years ago, the Supreme Court ruled in Citizens United that big corporations are allowed to spend unlimited amounts of money to influence American elections. They can buy millions of dollars’ worth of TV ads with no obligation to reveal who’s actually paying for them.
The consequences of this decision are predictable. If we allow this practice to continue, special interests will have unprecedented influence over politicians. It’s wrong. It’s corrosive to our democracy, and it’s a threat to our future.
Today, Republicans in the Senate had the chance to change it. They had the opportunity to support a bill that would prevent the worst effects of the Citizens United decision and require groups or special interests who are trying to influence elections to reveal their donors so the public will know who’s funding their political ads. This bill should have received broad, bipartisan support.
Unfortunately, Republicans chose to block it. Instead of standing up for the American people, Republicans stood with big banks and oil companies-- special interests that certainly don’t need more clout in Washington.
I will continue to do everything I can to repair the deficit of trust between Washington and the American people. I’m disappointed Republicans in Congress failed to take action and hold corporations and special interests accountable to the American people.