GOP Hides as Americans Call for Disclosure


The Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision opened the floodgates to unrestricted special interest money secretly influencing campaigns around the country.  But, as the latest poll from the First Amendment Center shows, Americans want those floodgates firmly shut:

63 percent of Americans disagree with the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision and believe that corporations or unions should not be able to spend as much money as they want in support or opposition to political candidates.  Only 30 percent of those surveyed agreed with decision; 7 percent were undecided.  [First Amendment Center, 7/17]

Congressional Republicans, however, are choosing to ignore the will of the American people—including two votes this week by the Senate GOP to block consideration of the DISCLOSE Act, which is the first step to cleaning up the secret money in politics.  From Bloomberg’s editorial today, Disclosure Vote Leaves Trail of Broken Republican Vows:

Republicans in the U.S. Senate voted unanimously Monday and again on Tuesday to block adoption of the Disclose Act…

For years, congressional Republicans had vowed that disclosure of donations and spending was the one sure route to an honest campaign-finance system. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, the field general who for two decades has organized the party’s attacks on campaign-finance regulation, including the McCain-Feingold reforms, once spoke eloquently of the sanctity of the First Amendment and of the merits of disclosure…

…congressional Republicans have escaped the outer orbit of expediency with this week’s votes. Perhaps once you decide it’s acceptable to label the health-care policies you previously supported — individual mandate, health-care exchanges, etc. — as the trappings of dictatorship, your inhibitions disappear.

Although McConnell’s full reversal on disclosure is well known, he has lots of company, including the three top leaders in the House of Representatives. What follows is a sampling of words, compiled with help from the pro-disclosure Campaign Legal Center.

Speaker of the House John Boehner: “I think what we ought to do is we ought to have full disclosure, full disclosure of all of the money that we raise and how it is spent. And I think that sunlight is the best disinfectant.” (NBC, “Meet the Press” transcript, Feb. 11, 2007)

Majority Leader Eric Cantor: “Anything that moves us back towards that notion of transparency and real-time reporting of donations and contributions I think would be a helpful move towards restoring confidence of voters.” (Newsweek, “SCOTUS Ruling Spells Disaster for Political Transparency,” Jan. 21, 2010)…

Senate Minority Leader McConnell: “Republicans are in favor of disclosure. There’s a serious constitutional question, whether you can require people engaged in what’s called issue advocacy to disclose. But if you’re going to do that, and the Senate voted to do that, and I’m prepared to go down that road, then it needs to be meaningful disclosure, Tim. 527s are just a handful of groups. We need to have real disclosure. And so what we ought to do is broaden the disclosure to include at least labor unions and tax-exempt business associations and trial lawyers so that you include the major political players in America. Why would a little disclosure be better than a lot of disclosure?” (“Meet the Press,” June 18, 2000)…

A charitable interpretation of these statements is that the words have no meaning. A less charitable interpretation is that they convey something important about the speakers.

 

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