To DISCLOSE is an act of courage, light

It may have escaped public notice in the excitement over the long-awaited U.S. Supreme Court decision on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, but we are facing a looming cloture date in the U.S. Senate on DISCLOSE.

The DISCLOSE 2012 Act is a revision of a failed 2010 measure drafted after the unsettling Citizens United decision recognizing corporations' constitutional right to free speech.

If passed, this revision would force corporations to disclose millions — nay, billions — in political spending.

If passed, we could see which corporations and Super PACs are spending and which candidates are courting the money.

DISCLOSE is not just an acronym. It’s a statement.

It stands for Democracy is Strengthened by Casting Light on Spending in Elections.

We have long held — and enforced — laws casting light on securities, ensuring corporate financial ethics in the private sector.

DISCLOSE would cast much the same light on corporate financial ethics in elections.

Why is that important?

Because, according to DISCLOSE co-sponsor Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-NY, a “full one-third of all ‘independent’ spending in the 2010 midterms came from secret sources and their corporate front groups.”

Why is that important?

Because every one of the 435 seats in the U.S. House and 37 of 100 seats in the Senate were filled during that election. That’s a lot of people re-elected to their seats or newly swept into power whose campaigns were funded, in one-third part, by secret money.

The DISCLOSE 2012 Act would not only give the public access to financial information, it would do so quickly, requiring corporations donating $10,000 or more to report expenditures within 24 hours.

It would also require Super PACs to identify — on air — who is paying for third-party commercials, ads that are often more negative than informative.

The act, in 2010 and again in 2012, was introduced by Democrats and has been widely supported by Democrats. It failed in 2010 in a Republican filibuster and there are whispers that, if it even gets past cloture, that could happen again.

To date, this has been an intensely partisan issue. That cannot continue.

This is an issue of courage.

Candidates must have the fortitude to seek election on ideological convictions, not corporate checkbooks.

Corporations and special-interest groups spend a startling amount of money — nearly $4 billion in 2010 — to get candidates who will do their bidding elected as the people’s representatives.

We, as voters, have an absolute right to know who is buying whom and for what. We cannot do that if corporations — now equal to “people” by law — doing the buying are shielded from disclosure requirements.

Actual people, the living individuals who go to the polls to vote, are required to disclose their financial support of candidates down to the penny. To craft different disclosure rules for the “people” that are actually corporations is not right. Not fair. Not transparent.

Our elections — national and local — are increasingly being driven by money, not ideals.

It’s odd, really, that so many candidates fully support transparency and open government while running for office and, once elected, fall prey to the powerful influence of money. We’re not suggesting that it happens to all politicians, but it happens enough to be a pretty recognizable, and disturbing, trend.

Secrecy and government are a destructive partnership. A partnership that can, as it once did in this country, launch a revolution.

DISCLOSE, already.

Show us the money.

jmeyer@sunjournal.com

The opinions expressed in this column reflect the views of the ownership and editorial board.

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Comments

MARK GRAVE's picture

“It’s odd, really, that so

“It’s odd, really, that so many candidates fully support transparency and open government while running for office...”

I’m not in the least bit surprised. Once one is elected to office, it is natural behavior to protect your turf. Why would any politician want the public to know who butter’s their bread?

Steve  Dosh's picture

To DISCLOSE is an act of courage, light , ,

ed., 12.06.30 10 am ish HST •
Yes ? and be sure to avoid any - a p p e a r a n c e - of impropriety Clarence Thomas again • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clarence_Thomas_Supreme_Court_nomination
ßless you Anita Hill . .Happy Fourth e v e r y o n e :)
/s ,. Dr. Dosh , former fed • Quit under ßush - Cheney - Rice , liars
Prosecute forme A G Ashcroft for waterboarding . .. & torture . .

CLAIRE GAMACHE's picture

Secret money

Secret money invites all sorts of chicanery. First of all you cannot prosecute someone for taking bribes if you don't even know who contributed the money. Why would we want this kind of corruption at all levels of our government including the courts? Secondly you cannot regulate foreign money. Do we really want the Chinese, Mexicans or Saudis to elect our leaders? We also cannot keep criminal enterprise out of our government. Do we really want government of the mafia, run by the mafia and for the mafia? If people are donating money out of principle then they should be proud to have their names attached to it and if candidates are taking money because they share beliefs with those people then we have a right to know that BEFORE THE ELECTION. People who belong to unions already know what the unions donate to as they are democratic organizations with elected leaders and in my union political donations came from member donations not dues. In any case I believe all donations should be aboveboard.

MARK GRAVE's picture

Claire, Is not a simple

Claire,

Is not a simple answer smaller government - fewer people to corrupt, neutered influence of the corrupted?

MICHAEL LEBLANC's picture

Does DISCLOSE cover ...

... unions as well? When the subject is money in politics, the left gives unions a free pass. The reason is obvious. It would be really interesting to see what would happen when their members, those that haven't been allowed to leave, finally understand where their dues are going.

Jonathan Albrecht's picture

No parrellel between corporations and unions

First, rarely do unions donate money. They normally donate time, in-kind contributions. Cash contributions are insignificant.
Second, to justify Citizen United the Supreme Court had to assert the absurd idea that Corporations ARE people with all the Constitutional Rights that implies. Defies all logic, reason, experience, and 200+ years of legal decisions. Corporations are an accumulation of contracts between people. Those contracts do not delegate any of the rights of a party to the contract to the corporation. People can't delegate rights only powers. Unions are voluntary associations of people not bound by contracts. They are not corporations. The Supreme Court did not give them the rights of people. Their contributions are individual contributions. Even when bundled with other contribution they remain individual.You might as well suggest NGO's. Since Republicans are trying to destroy planned parenthood since it helps Democrats win elections by servicing the needs of women, why not include their pap smears, cervical cancer screenings as in-kind contributions. Let's build absurdity on absurdity.
Third, money is fungible. The contribution of an international corporation can come from anywhere in the world. A Russian Mafia corporation could establish nexus in the US and then funnel billions of dollars under Citizen United to criminal organizations here to buy, bribe, corrupt US elections.
Citizens United fundamentally assaults the Constitution and must be overturned. Disclosure is a minor correction to this attack on American democracy.

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