Senator Al Franken is dismayed that Congress, won’t even consider passing the DISCLOSE Act. It’s up for a vote again, and Franken is not at all optimistic. What is DISCLOSE?
This bill doesn’t overturn Citizens United. It doesn’t limit how much money individuals or corporations can spend on independent expenditures. All it does is require that this spending be disclosed publicly. It reflects what used to be a bipartisan consensus around the effectiveness of transparency and disclosure in avoiding corruption.
Why do we need to pass the DISCLOSE Act?
Already in 2012, we’ve seen a single individual write multi-million-dollar checks in support of his favorite presidential candidate. We’ve seen corporations spend tens of millions of dollars on attack ads. We could see $1 billion in outside spending before Election Day.
Worse, there is little sunlight to be found in the post-Citizens United political system. Corporations that want to hide their spending can create shell corporations to contribute unlimited money to a group — so that when you look at the outside group’s fundraising records (which are published only occasionally), you’ll see the shell corporation but not the original source of the money.
And that guy who wrote all those seven-figure checks to support his favorite presidential candidate? We only know about that because he announced it himself (adding that some of his future spending would remain secret).
And because none of this spending is transparent, none of these spenders (or the candidates who profit from their spending) can be held accountable. We simply don’t know who is wielding all this financial power in this year’s elections. We just know it isn’t us, the people. That’s a system in need of disinfecting.
There’s a lot of people out there who think that as long as they have the right to vote, democracy is alive and well. This is dangerous thinking. It’s like arguing that as long as I can choose to buy one of the two brands of bread at the grocery store, I still retain meaningful choice. But what if both brands of bread are corrupted with bugs, pesticides, mold and chemical additives? Would you really waltz out of the store announcing that you had a meaningful choice, just because you were allowed to choose between Brand A and Brand B, where both of them were bad choices?
These huge secret campaign contributions corrupt our candidates. They are given to buy access and special attention to the donor’s wish list. If the candidate fails for follow through with the promises that WERE made in order to get these big contributions, the candidate’s OPPONENT will get that money next time.
And by the way, when was the last time that your President, Representative or Senator invited you out to Washington D.C. to discuss the important issues of the day? Maybe you need to get a job that pays 100 times as much as you are now making, so you can make a huge contribution, which might get you on the political radar.