Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Show Me the Money ... But Not Who Gives It

As we wade through the endless swamp of the Republican primary season, I see two very troubling issues: unrestricted corporate funding of campaigns under the guise of free speech, and the ability of individuals and organizations to contribute huge amounts of money - anonymously - to political campaigns. It's said we have the best government money can buy, and we're seeing the proof every day.

If you're one of my Facebook friends, you saw that I posted a link to this Washington Post article on my wall yesterday: Secret Money Is Funding More Election Ads. The introduction to the article sums up the issue ...

"More than a third of the advertising tied to the presidential race has been funded by nonprofit groups that will never have to reveal their donors, suggesting that a significant portion of the 2012 elections will be wrapped in a vast cloak of secrecy."

I've been ranting for a long time about the impact of money on our political system. The Supreme Court's ludicrous Citizens United decision that equated corporations to individuals and money to speech opened the flood gates to a tsunami of money, carefully vetted by armies of lawyers to ensure bare minimum adherence to virtually non-existent legal restrictions. But even more troubling to me than this - were that possible - is the perfectly lawful ability of major campaign donors, both individuals and groups, to pump huge amounts of money into political campaigns via nonprofit organizations without identifying themselves or their hidden agendas.

We like to think that we live in a country where everyone can stand up and be counted. We all know the famous Norman Rockwell painting that depicts the exercise of free speech ...
People may want to stand up and be counted, but many nonprofit groups engaged in political activity would rather sit down and remain untallied. A spokesman for the conservative nonprofit group "American Crossroads" was quoted in the Post article as saying that, “Private organizations don’t have to disclose their donor lists to the government at their beck and call,” and I don't have a problem with that. What I do have a problem with is that I, a private citizen trying to evaluate campaign advertising and competing claims, don't know who is paying for all the signs and ads and air time, and what their agenda might be. Those who would contribute anonymously often insist that, were their identities known, they would be targeted for harassment by the government ... indeed, a spokesman for another conservative nonprofit group, "Americans for Prosperity," was quoted in the article as "cit(ing) concerns that donors could be targeted for harassment by the Obama administration and liberal groups." Clearly, were the situations reversed, a conservative Republican administration would never so target anyone (right, Mr Nixon?).

Why, I ask myself, aren't you willing to own up to your political activity? If you're unwilling to stand up and be counted, why should I pay attention to you? And should I worry about what you may be secretly advocating that will be contrary to my best interests?

And how can I, as a private citizen, have any illusion that my vote will gain me the same level of attention from my elected officials as the vote purchased with enormous amounts of money by anonymous donors?

I don't see much chance of squeezing the political funding toothpaste back into the tube. Congress has too much interest in getting the big money needed to fund campaigns, and big-monied interests of both the left and right have enough power to squash any effective interference with their campaign spending, carried on under the lofty banner of free speech from behind the shield of anonymity.

Yep, we have the best government money can buy, especially if you're one of the "people" with the money to buy it.

The rest of you, follow me around back to the servants' entrance.

Have a good day. Insist on knowing who is buying your government. More thoughts tomorrow.



eViL pOp TaRt said...

I wonder if this cloak of anonymity over the money provided by private organizations is based on a fear of the government as a fear of private citizens' responses to their support of something or someone that they disapprove. Let's use the example of actors: they love to be seen as on record for supporting political candidates. But their support of unpopular ones can be translated into fewer tickets sold to people who have opposing viewpoints.

Mike said...

Your just jealous you don't have millions of dollars to buy people.

Elvis Wearing a Bra on His Head said...

There are some people who are even hypersensitive to hidden agendas in television commercials, like Clint Eastwood's for Dodge.