Wednesday, February 16, 2011


I JUST now read about the DISCLOSE Act, which failed to pass in the last Congress. I'm not sure how this one flew under my radar, but it seems as though it should have gotten more attention. The pernicious influence of anonymous money and donations on our election system is something I fear will only grow worse as the curbs on "speech" by groups and corporations gets louder.

The DISCLOSE Act would have required that ALL political ads, not just those run by politicians themselves, mention in the ad the top donor/donors, as well as have a spokesperson state his/her name and that s/he "supports this message".

The Act failed in a typically lopsided vote of 59 for 39 against with two republicans abstaining. Without even getting into how a 59-39 vote can be a "failure" (something I hope changes soon), the response of Republicans to the bill is telling, as well as which groups did or did not support the bill.

Here is what some Republicans voting against the ACT said:
  1. Patrick Toomey-
    "I've advocated for a long time that the best way to approach campaign finance is to allow unlimited contributions and require immediate disclosure."
    Apparently, however, he was unwilling to force people to disclose who they were unless they were simultaneously allowed to spend unlimited amounts of money. Of course democracy works best when he is the richest is heard the most.
  2. Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell said-
    “They want government to pick and choose who gets to speak in elections, and how much they speak.”
    confusing the issue purposely to make us think the DISCLOSE Act did anything to limit contributions. There is, however, a difference between limiting who can speak, how much one can speak, and ensuring we know who is speaking. But he, and his Republican colleagues, don't want us to know who is speaking on their behalf. (OpenCongress.Org, however, lists for us who is speaking. It tell us who the major organizations are who were opposed to DISCLOSE, as well as which politicians those groups donated to, and how those politicians voted. It's one of my new favorite websites.)
  3. In his speech on the Senate Floor, Senator Kyl of Arizona confused process with outcomes, saying,
    The closed-door process under which the DISCLOSE Act was written contradicts its supporters' professed goal of transparency. It is a partisan rewrite of campaign finance laws without hearings, without testimony, without studies, without a markup--again, written behind closed doors with the help of lobbyists and special interests.

The objections repeat, again and again, from Republicans that this would have "limited free speech". This is, however, a common misconception--that being responsible for ones speech, and speaking openly, is the same as not being able to speak. It's like Dr. Laura saying that her "first amendment rights were trampled" because people were upset enough with her words to boycott her.

The argument that forcing corporations, organizations and individuals to tell us who they are when making a political claim is somehow infringing upon "free speech" seems ridiculous to me. Does it matter who is running an ad saying we can achieve "energy independence" by drilling in Alaska? Yes! If the people who are running that ad are oil and natural gas companies, then it DOES matter. As things stand now, however, we do not know who it is, and cannot know.


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