On Monday evening, Senate Republicans filibustered to kill S.3369, the DISCLOSE Act… “A bill to amend the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 to provide for additional disclosure requirements for corporations, labor organizations, Super PACs and other entities, and for other purposes.”
Sixty votes would have broken the Republican filibuster, but it went straight down party lines, 51-44, with every Democrat voting to move the bill forward, and every Republican voting against.
Basically, the bill would increase transparency related to campaign finance. It would have made contributions over $10,000 public, and required outside groups that run political ads to publish the names of top donors, the same way candidates for public office have to do now.
The rationale behind this bill should be obvious, especially in light of the Supreme Court’s 2010 ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (FEC), which allowed unlimited spending by corporations and unions related to elections and the subsequent lower court ruling that used the Citizens United decision to allow unlimited contributions by individuals in groups being called “super PACs.”
Individual contributions are bad enough, but corporations being people too, and then allowing them to contribute as much as they want to a political campaign, well… it clearly makes it easy, or at the very least, easier to buy some influence or ensure your favorite bill’s passage. And that would seem especially true, if no one has to know what you’ve done.
The Republican opposition wasn’t unexpected, however, the GOP filibustered a similar bill before and those in the know knew they would oppose it again this time around. According to various reports in the press, although the Democrats were hoping for more support for this version of the bill, they are now hoping to use the Republican opposition to their advantage in the upcoming election by showing voters that the GOP opposes all types of campaign finance reform.
The GOP’s argument for opposing the bill is that it would potentially infringe upon a donor’s first amendment right to freedom of speech. In an Op-Ed for USA Today, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), said the following about the DISCLOSE Act…
“… the measure is an attempt to identify and punish political enemies, or at the very least, intimidate others from participating in the process.
The Supreme Court, in Citizens United v. the FEC, correctly ruled that Congress may not ban political speech based on the identity of the speaker. The Disclose Act would make this and any future administration’s ability to punish and intimidate its political enemies even easier.”
McConnell also provided a second example of what drove him to oppose the bill…
“The Supreme Court addressed this issue in 1958 in NAACP v. Alabama, ruling that forced disclosure of the NAACP’s member lists by Alabama would discourage people from freely associating with a cause or group.”
Okay, so let’s straighten this mess out, because it’s giving me a headache.
We’re about to witness what is all but certain to be the most expensive presidential election in the history of the world. In addition to the natural progression of things, the Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizen’s United, virtually guarantees that every special interest group in the country is lining up to invest in its own future political clout.
It’s impossible for me to imagine that anyone thinks this is a positive development, but mandatory disclosure of the identity of those making contributions in excess of $10,000, would appear to be the minimum we could do to limit the potential for blatant corruption resulting from the high court’s ruling.
In other words, it seems pretty darn clear to me that ABC Oil & Gas Corporation might be somewhat more hesitant to provide a political campaign a $1 million contribution… and conversely, a political campaign might be somewhat more hesitant to accept $1 million from ABC Oil & Gas Corporation… if the donation had to be made public.
If these sorts of things are allowed to go on in secret then, well… I’d say outright corruption to whatever degree is absolutely assured. Further, I don’t think it’s overstatement to say that killing the DISCLOSE Act is plainly a true threat to our democracy going forward.
A USA Today editorial in response to Mitch McConnell’s made the point that with the DISCLOSE Act, “Citizens can see whether elected officials are ‘in the pocket’ of so-called moneyed interests.”
And it should go without saying that without this law, the opposite would be true.
The USA Today editorial pointed out that while a million bucks may be chicken feed in a presidential race, there are many less publicized issues and campaigns at the federal level, and most at the state level, where a whole lot less than a million dollars would certainly be capable of swaying the outcome.
“Spending for state and local races is much lower, making them more vulnerable to big-money influence. The average cost of winning a seat in the state legislature in 2010, for instance, ranged from $711,000 in California to a remarkable $773 in New Hampshire.”
That same editorial also pointed out…
“In its controversial 2010 Citizens United ruling, which opened the door for unlimited individual, corporate and union money to flow into politics, the Supreme Court recognized the importance of publicly naming donors…
Citizens United left the public only one way to protect itself from the rising threat: disclosure.”
Senator McConnell’s example shown above, that he says supports his position that this bill was a threat to the first amendment… the Supreme Court’s ruling regarding the forced disclosure of the NAACP’s member lists in 1958… is just plain idiotic.
And his assertion that the DISCLOSE bill was an attempt to improve the administration’s ability to “punish and intimidate political enemies,” is disingenuous crapola… pure unadulterated horsepucky.
If Senator McConnell actually believes either of those things are truly relevant to this conversation, then he’s a moron… entirely unfit for public office, because he’s clearly not playing with all 52 cards.
Forced disclosure of NAACP member lists in 1958? That’s his example?
Well, I looked it up and found a couple of law school professors at the University of Pennsylvania had written all about the decision referenced by Boss McConnell.
Apparently, back in 1956, the state of Alabama, a bastion of segregation you might recall, demanded a copy of the NAACP’s membership list, as part of its effort to expel the group from the state.
Gee, I wonder why Alabama would want to go after the NAACP in 1956, don’t you? What a mystery that is. Luckily, the professors from Penn explained…
Back in the 1950s, the public associated the NAACP with bold, even radical efforts to force an end to legal segregation. Many welcomed the political and legal work of the NAACP. But many others did not.
Especially in the South, letting go of traditions of racial discrimination was painfully hard. In 1954, the Supreme Court handed down its decision in Brown v. Board of Education officially ending state imposed public school segregation. Yet many southerners refused to send their children to desegregated public schools, let alone sit next to an African American on a bus or at a lunch counter.
Public resistance to integration efforts in the 1950’s explains why the state of Alabama became desperate to get rid of the NAACP. The NAACP’s mission to remove racial and color discrimination from American life was at variance with the state’s aim of maintaining an unequal caste system of racial segregation.
Alabama conceived a clever strategy to expel the NAACP, one that relied on the state’s foreign corporation qualification law.
Alabama decided that the NAACP, which had been organized in New York, was a foreign corporation operating in Alabama. In 1956, Alabama officials accused the NAACP of violating the law requiring foreign corporations to register with the state.
Describing the NAACP’s alleged operations, the state maintained that the NAACP had (among other things) provided both financial support and legal aid to black students attempting to gain admission to the white-only University of Alabama.
The state also alleged that the unregistered civil rights group had instigated the famous Montgomery bus boycott that followed Rosa Park’s arrest for refusing to give her bus seat to a white passenger.
(Actually, as if it matters… the NAACP had nothing to do with the Montgomery Bus boycott and the NAACP only provided legal support to African Americans seeking to attend the University of Alabama. I know… they’re irrelevant points, but it does serve to highlight the fact that racists are always uneducated pantloads.)
The court’s position was articulated as follows…
Revealing the group’s membership, argued the Court, “is likely to affect adversely the ability of [the NAACP] and its members to pursue their collective effort to foster beliefs which they admittedly have the right to advocate, in that it may induce members to withdraw from the Association and dissuade others from joining it because of fear of exposure of their beliefs shown through their associations and of the consequences of this exposure.” NAACP at 462-63.
Ya’ think? Did anyone see the movie “Mississippi Burning,” for heaven’s sake? What do you think might have happened to the NAACP members in Alabama back then had their names been handed over to state’s racists… I mean, state officials?
The court ruled that any peaceful religious, social or political organization should be able to assure confidentiality to members, but as the law school professors from Penn also explained…
“No constitutional right is absolute, however. The right to maintain membership data in secrecy is not perfectly guaranteed. But the Court reassuringly characterized official demands for membership lists as substantial restraints on freedom of association. As such, courts must strike them down unless they are narrowly tailored and necessary to further a compelling state interest. NAACP at 463-66.“
I think it’s safe to say that most Americans are pretty fed up with the rampant corruption that has come along with lobbyists and their penchant for handing out wads of campaign cash in order to accomplish their client’s objectives. It seems to me that it used to be more hidden… kept in the background. Today, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a Brinks truck pull up in front of the U.S. Capitol.
So, I’d say that the DISCLOSE Act was unquestionably “narrowly tailored and necessary to further a compelling state interest.”
Honestly, is there anyone who doesn’t agree with what I’m saying here?
The idea that corporations are allowed to contribute unlimited amounts to political campaigns is fruit loopy insane to begin with, but that they should be able to do so in total secrecy is perhaps the single most un-American idea I’ve ever heard. Our Founding Fathers would have most assuredly turned over in their graves, were such a thing possible.
It’s a slap in the face to the men and women who gave their lives to protect our nation… our democracy… our way of life. All by itself, it detracts from our ability to stand as any sort of model to other countries around the world.
This issue should not be a Democrat v. Republican thing… to oppose disclosure of those who give more than $10,000 to a political campaign should be seen as treasonous… destructive of the public trust… and furthering the cause of those who would seek to corrupt our political process.
Every single American citizen should shame the Republican filibuster that effectively destroyed any possibility for legislative reform of money in politics before the 2012 election. And I would say exactly the same thing were it the Democrats that had prevented such a bill’s passage.
I urge everyone reading this… my DOERS, regardless of which party you prefer to be aligned with, to contact your state senators via email and tell them that this sort of thing is not acceptable. Tell them that we did not elect them so they could go to Washington and keep secrets from the American people.
We have a right to know if a politician has been bought and paid for by any one special interest group or corporation. And if that’s not the case, then let the individual run for office in the light of day, not keeping secrets about who his or her friends are or aren’t.
Killing this bill facilitates lying to the American people. And short of something that’s kept secret in order to protect our national defense, there is never a reason we should tolerate anyone or anything that does that.
And Senator McConnell… is that your final answer? Or, would you like to rethink your “NAACP v. The State of Alabama in 1956” example of why the GOP ALL voted to kill the DISCLOSURE Act in 2012?
Contact your United States Senators today and tell them we will NOT tolerate efforts to lie, cheat and obfuscate the truth from the American voter. We’ve seen more than enough of that, and from here on out, those who think it’s okay to do so will very likely be retiring sooner than they think.
I’m serious about this… we can’t be silent in the face of things like this or we are assured to only see more of them in the future. Don’t sit quietly even one more day.