The US Supreme Court opened the floodgates with its Citizens United decision and money poured into this year’s election from special interests, corporations, insurance companies and Wall Street. Most of it was secret because Congress has not passed the Disclose Act requiring that contributors names be made public for those engaging in trying to influence the outcome of our elections. The bill has passed the House but is stuck in the US Senate.
Such secret money of course comes with strings attached and the public has the right to know who has bankrolled political campaigns and how our elected officials voted on legislation affecting those donors.
Money spent opposing the Health Care bill passed by Congress points out the problems in detail. As a recent New York Times Editoriall points out:
According to tax records unearthed by Bloomberg News, the health insurance lobby secretly gave $86.2 million to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in 2009 to try to prevent the health care bill from becoming law. The huge contribution — 40 percent of the chamber’s spending for that year — allowed the group to run ads against the bill without tainting the insurance industry, which was negotiating with Democrats on the bill at the same time.
This year, the chamber raised nearly $33 million in secret donations for political ads in the midterm elections, almost all of which was used to elect Republicans who have vowed to repeal the health care law. Did some of that money come, once again, from health insurance companies that were unwilling to attach their names to their contributions? It’s a logical assumption, but only the donors and the chamber know for sure.
And that’s the problem with secret political donations, which played such a large role in the elections earlier this month. They cast a shadow of doubt and distrust over a huge field, raising questions about who is covertly pushing which bill and supporting which candidate, and for which self-serving purposes. Lobbying and political contributions can be perfectly legitimate practices, but only when the public can see who is pulling the strings.
Secret donors spent at least $138 million on the midterm elections, according to the latest figures, and 80 percent of that secret money supported Republican candidates. What will those donors get for their money, and who will they get it from?
Write your Senators today and urge they pass the Disclose Act. It’s bad enough having all that corporate and special interest money swamp the public discourse without also know who is funding the campaign.
OpenCongress.org describes the bill:
This is the Democrats’ response to the Supreme Courts’ recent Citizens United v. FEC ruling. It seeks to increase transparency of corporate and special-interest money in national political campaigns. It would require organizations involved in political campaigning to disclose the identity of the large donors, and to reveal their identities in any political ads they fund. It would also bar foreign corporations, government contractors and TARP recipients from making political expenditures. Notably, the bill would exempt all long-standing, non-profit organizations with more than 500,000 members from having to disclose their donor lists.