It’s not bad enough that, with the Citizens United ruling, the Supreme Court has basically allowed corporate America to buy our election process. However, the fact that these entities (who are not people, by the way), can provide a never-ending stream of dirty cash to their chosen candidates in complete secrecy should be enough to make us all go postal. This whole misbegotten process is the single biggest threat to American democracy today. It basically takes the voting process out of the hands of the American people and puts it into the hands of corporations. Of course, the SCOTUS assumed that complete transparency would keep the process honest but clearly corporations aren’t as stupid as the members of the Supreme Court.
Corporations can hide much of what they donate simply by funneling that money through 501(c)(4) entities, which are not required to disclose. These entities are supposed to be “social welfare” organizations whose “mission is to promote the common good.” However, that’s a bunch of bullshit. Organizations, like the Tea Party, often seek 501(c)(4) status so that they can hide their political activity from public scrutiny. I use the Tea Party as an example because they have applied for 501(c)(4) status, but the Chamber of Commerce is another good example. Theoretically, we know what a Chamber of Commerce is supposed to do. However, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce plans to raise about $100 million to fund congressional races in the 2012 cycle. It will also spend significant amounts of money attacking Obama’s health care plan. (And we all know that isn’t a dead issue in spite of the Supreme Court’s ruling.) These are the kinds of groups the Disclose Act was designed to expose. The Democratic-sponsored bill would require nonprofits to disclose very contribution over $10,000 that is used for political purposes.
But alas, the Disclose Act was effectively squashed by a GOP filibuster, the party’s favorite political tactic to obstruct any kind of reform anywhere within the government. The motion went down to defeat 51-44, failing to gain the 60 votes required to overcome the Republican filibuster. Of course, immediately after the SCOTUS money-is-speech ruling, Mitch McConnell and the rest of the Goons on Parade (translate: GOP) were all for the whole transparency thing because they knew the money could be funneled through 501(c)(4) groups. It was pure lip service. Once the bill on disclosure became a reality, the GOP took action to protect its corporate brethren. Now, let’s face it. It’s not just the GOP using SuperPACs. The Democrats are as well, but at least the Democrats are willing to do it right out in the open–unlike the GOP. That’s largely because the GOP is miles out in front of the Democrats when it comes to taking this dark money.
On the same day that the Disclose Act went down to defeat, The Congressional Leadership Fund and its nonprofit stooge group called the American Action Network, reserved $6 million in ad time to support GOP House candidates. About half of that $6 million will come from the nonprofit side, and that means that it will not require disclosure. Any questions about why the GOP only supports disclosure when it’s theory and not reality?
You know, I was fooled in 2008 for sure. I was convinced that the election was going to be a hell of a lot closer than it was at the end of the day. I held no illusions about Barack Obama and I still don’t, but I will tell you that I was terrified I was going to wake up in the morning to President McCain and Vice President Palin (otherwise known as the Buffoon Squad). I’m looking at the polls again now and I’m terrified about waking up to President Romney. Hell, who cares who his VP pick ends up being! He’s terrifying enough on his own. Things seem to be close again, and I’m thinking this one could be close all the way down the line with the winner being determined in the swing states. That’s why the whole Citizen’s United ruling is dangerous, and why disclosure is so important. We’ll know who bought the election some day, but by then the election will be over and we’ll be looking in the rear view mirror.
For me, this is the bottom line: Disclosure is critical as long as Citizens United remains a viable SCOTUS ruling. But ultimately, whatever it takes, the Citizens United ruling must absolutely be overturned.