Thursday, October 7, 2010

"Trust Me" Politics

You may have noticed the links section we added in our "Notable News" area several weeks ago titled "Attempting To Buy The Election: The Effects Of Citizens United." We hope you've noticed that section, and we've seen that more than a few of you have clicked on the links in it.

A question we're still asked on a regular basis, however, is "What is that Citizens United thing, anyway?"

In short, Citizens United is the case that allowed elections to be bought, outright, in the United States.

When the case Citizens United v Federal Election Commission first came before the Supreme Court in 2008, we had a feeling that, if the conservative Roberts Court became judicially activist, politics in America could take a severe turn for the worse.

Unfortunately, in January of 2010, our concerns were proven to be valid. The Supreme Court ignored nearly a century of settled law, including many cases they had decided before, and threw out most campaign finance regulation, including the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, better known as the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law.

Since that decision was handed down earlier this year, the floodgates have opened on campaign financing. In television ads alone - the most expensive part of political campaigning - outside groups and major political parties are expected to spend nearly $3 billion dollars. That's "billion." With a "B". On TV ads.

While the stories and statistics show that groups that are conservative, neo-conservative, corporatist, and heavily allied with standard Republican causes are the biggest abusers so far of the loopholes caused by Citizens United, don't think that dishonor belongs to just the corporate groups on the right. Unions like the SEIU are also ramping up their fundraising and media buying in competitive districts.

As long as most of these groups are spending at least half of the money they raise on "issue ads" that don't TECHNICALLY advocate for or against a specific candidate, they're still legally in the clear - and don't have to divulge ANY information about where their money is coming from.

The DISCLOSE Act put forth by the President and White House would have stopped that shameful loophole - but, after passing the House, it was held hostage in the Senate by Republicans, and left to die.

As several people have noted, there's one sure-fire way groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and far-right wing groups like Karl Rove's "American Crossroads" could put to rest the question of where their money is coming from - for example, whether it's coming from overseas corporations (which is still illegal): release the list of their donors.

Contrary to their protestations, releasing the names of those donors would be perfectly legal, so long as they choose to make that information public (as opposed to being forced to release it). Doing so would also follow along with the logic that groups like the Chamber and individuals like Mr. Rove have previously claimed to adhere to on so many other topics.

As they themselves have said before about similar issues, like warrantless wiretapping, "If you have nothing to hide, there shouldn't be a problem - should there?"

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