Transparency for corporate and labor money

My perspective on the SCOTUS ruling is mixed. I think there's strong arguments against the ruling, but I also doubt it's worth all the effort going to reverse the ruling. In fact, there are parts of the ruling that are quite favorable. Sunlight Foundation spells out the part where I think the energy should go into:

Yesterday the Supreme Court announced a decision that will allow more money into our political system than ever before. If you think big money and lobbyists already run roughshod over Washington, you haven't seen anything yet.

The Court did admit one silver lining -- that online transparency might help citizens and voters figure out who is buying or selling influence, and that the first line of defense is the disclosure of all this new political spending in a way that is worthy of the 21st century.

We need to make all the disclosures available to anyone online and in real-time.

And the disclosure needs to happen across the board. All political contributions and expenditures by everyone - candidates, contributors, labor unions, and interest groups - need to be transparent to us.

Stronger disclosure is the way to go on this matter. Only Clarence Thomas was against the disclosure provisions of the law. Rather than go down the path of attempting to reverse this through legislation, which is probably a dead-end, a push for more transparency is ultimately going to give us the means to accountability.

Tags: SCOTUS (all tags)



That's great and all, but it's not likely as useful as it would appear

First, I think that the ruling is a disaster for democracy. It's not like we didn't have significant issues with campaign finance before this, but this makes that orders of magnitude worse than it was.

As for your specific point on transparency, do you believe that a company, say Bank of America, is going to directly spend on political ads and the like? They almost certainly wouldn't; that'd be silly of them to put their fingerprints on such things. They'd band with other corps with similar interests, charter a company/group "Citizens for Awesome Banking" and funnel their money through that.



by Caffinated 2010-01-22 01:26PM | 0 recs
The ruling is hypocritical

I mean, really, these are the same people who thought the state had a legitimate reason to ban "bong hits 4 jesus."

But yes, transparency would be good.  I don't understand why we bother with the current method of disclosure, where you report your contributions and expenditures. 

Why not require that contributors give their money to the FEC who will then disburse it to the designated candidate for a designated reason?  It would eliminate the dependency on candidates to disclose honestly - good for us - and eliminate the need for them to track their contributions / expenditures - good for them.

by Drew 2010-01-22 02:15PM | 0 recs
You must be kidding.

By September thousands of corporations will be spending tens, if not millions, of dollars on TV ads for their candidates.  First, do you really believe these corporations care that their customers know whom they are supporting?  Second, do you really believe most of their customers care whom the corporations are supporting (case in point - Walmart)?

You write:

I also doubt it's worth all the effort going to reverse the ruling.

Jerome, that is too, too funny.  You would rather have us spend thousands and thousands of hours in additional fundraising each election cycle to then have a slim chance of competing with these corporations than have our Congress simply kill the filibuster, (temporarily if necessary),create two new Supreme Court seats, bring a similar case to trial, and have the new SCOTUS reverse the decision?

It doesn't sound like you value our democracy very much.

by Georgeo57 2010-01-22 02:16PM | 0 recs
RE: You must be kidding.

I, for one, value our republic enough to know it's wrong to manipulate Supreme Court seat numbers just because there's a constitutional ruling we don't like.  Why 2 seats and not 10?  Hell, when the Republicans take over again (and history tells us they will), they can add 20 new seats and overturn Roe v. Wade, isn't that a fun way to go?  Get real.

Disclosure isn't meant to embarass the corporations, but the candidates.  Shoppers of Wal-Mart may not stop shopping at Wal-Mart because it supports Republicans, but I know plenty of Wal-Mart shoppers who shop there bitterly because it's the only place they can afford, and who would be much less likely to vote for the guy Wal-Mart supports.  Disclosure is for voters, not customers.

by bannana873 2010-01-22 02:23PM | 0 recs
If you truly valued our Republic

you would not be satisfied with handing it to corporations.  Our Country is of the People, by the People, and for the People.  Corporations are not even included in the Constitution.

Republicans are not coming back to power, unless we let this ruling stand;

by Georgeo57 2010-01-22 04:03PM | 0 recs
Please - You've Lost Your MInd

Can you please give me an example where disclosure of a donor or donors has effected a campaign. There have been embarrassments but nothing that would equal the power of the money itself. 

by sacca28 2010-01-22 02:56PM | 0 recs
RE: Please - You've Lost Your MInd

I can point to multiple examples where spending outrageous amounts of money didn't win the election.

by Jerome Armstrong 2010-01-22 04:02PM | 0 recs
RE: Please - You've Lost Your MInd

which would do nothing to show that it doesn't greatly help


by jeopardy 2010-01-22 04:47PM | 0 recs
You are arguing the exception to a very robust rule.

Even so, you should recognize how massive a threat to our democracy this ruling represents.

by Georgeo57 2010-01-22 05:33PM | 1 recs
Government Corruption

We tried restricting free speech to decrease government corruption, but it hasn't worked. They still wield power with this law in place.

Outside of that, do we really want the government controlling speech? During the arguements, the justices asked if it the video in question (about HRC) had been a book, would it have been okay? They said no, it was the content that was the problem.

in essence, they were arguing that the government should be able to ban books that are critical of government. Is this what we want?

I agree with Jerome that there are better ways to decrease the influence of special interests. Along with his thoughts, how about electing politicians that represent the people instead of their corporate masters?



by tpeichel 2010-01-22 03:25PM | 0 recs
RE: Government Corruption

Well, you could argue that the Solicitor General overreached by answering the question that way, but they didn't have much choice in the context of this particular case.  The case involved on-demand video which is a lot more like a book than it is like TV or radio advertising where airtime is a limited commodity.  The government has a greater interest in regulating traditional TV/radio advertising because one party with a lot of money has the capability to crowd out the speech of other parties by buying up all the airtime.

A court that was committed to restraint and judicial modesty (you know, like Roberts claimed he was at his confirmation hearing) could have decided the case by limiting its holding to on-demand video and similar forms of distribution where an unlimited number of parties have the ability to speak without crowding each other out.  Frankly, if Exxon wants to operate the Exxonblog and make blog posts in favor of Exxon-friendly candidates, I don't really think that hurts anything.  If Exxon spends millions of dollars saturating the airwaves with candidate ads, on the other hand, that's a problem.

by Steve M 2010-01-22 04:20PM | 0 recs
RE: Government Corruption

I guess I would counter with who is really getting crowded out? There are infinite mediums where people get their information, traditional media no longer has a stranglehold like it had in the past.



by tpeichel 2010-01-22 04:35PM | 0 recs
RE: Government Corruption

Certainly, there are still quite a few people who get their information from traditional TV and radio outlets, or campaigns and corporations wouldn't spend so much money advertising in these venues.  They'd just run a campaign blog or whatever.

You and I may get our information from a wide range of sources but I don't think the electorate as a whole is quite there yet.  Maybe for topics they have a strong interest in, but on political issues a lot of casual voters are going to be persuaded by whatever information they've heard on TV since they don't have the time or inclination to go fact-check it for themselves.

by Steve M 2010-01-22 04:39PM | 0 recs
Agree with tpeichel

The laws that were in place seemed effective for getting more Democrats elected in 2004-2008, it also managed to get more people out on the streets and making small contributions themselves, but where were these Democrats when we needed them (Iraq, FISA, EFCA, Health CARE Reform, Global Climate Change Legislation).  In the end it seems that still none of the Democrats we worked so hard to get elected bothered to stand up to the corporate interests behind every single one of the examples I listed (MIC, Telecoms, Banks and Large Corporations, Pharmaceuticals and Insurance, Oil and Coal respectively).

There are a few major steps that, in conjunction with Jerome's point about disclosure, might help change the process.

1) Time and place restrictions on free speech effectively limited many protests and other political demonstrations by groups of individuals to times and places where their impact was minimized or even totally overlooked.  What if we put a new law in place that if you were a corporation (non-profit or otherwise) your free speech was limited to a few late night cable channels, myspace video, and the local library only.  Sort of like how you can't show boobs on HBO until after 9 or 10pm or whenever.  Then they can spend as much money as they want on political messages but no one will be around to hear them.

2) One-hundred percent publicly funded elections.  In addition maybe if an individual or a corporation wants to contribute more than X dollars toward political advertisements or contributions to any given candidate -- lets say $5000 -- then they have to also contribute half again as much ($2500) to a general election fund that goes equally to all parties that have decided to use public funding.

3) Wait for it... revoke the status of corporations as "people" or "human beings."  They don't die so they can't be a person.  This also means that they don't have all the rights that people do.

That's alls I gots folks.

by jlars 2010-01-22 04:33PM | 0 recs
Senator lemioux(R) of FL

sent me an email which reads, in part:

"One message I heard loud and clear in Panama City was opposition to the federal government's effort to take over the entire college student loan program. Such a move would eliminate good paying private sector jobs across the nation, including more than 700 at the Sallie Mae facility in Panama City. The federal government should not take over where the private sector is already succeeding in providing a good service."

Get it?

by QTG 2010-01-22 09:14PM | 0 recs
I don't see this as a silver lining, Jerome.

Maybe you have more faith in the American people than I do. I see most of the people in this country as willfully ignorant. Most people don't care to look for information that is readily available. Transparency should be a good thing, yes. But to see an upside to this decision, I think you are assuming that the average voter A) cares enough to find out which corporations are funding which candidates, and B) has the brains to understand the implications of that funding. It doesn't matter that the information is out there -- people are going to be stupid and think what they want regardless. Even our members of Congress are stupid. Should Joe Wilson already have known that HCR efforts would not provide for illegal immigrants? Yeah, the information was available. But the stupid ass decided what he thought, didn't bother to look, and hollered "You Lie" at the president. And wingnuts around the country agreed with him and applauded. You think those same dumbasses -- or even average moderates -- are going to do any research or critical thinking? Nah. Math is hard. So are words. Down with the socialists and brown people!

I understand what you are saying -- and in theory, yeah, people ought to be able to look at who's being bought and sold and wise up. But in practice, expecting people to do their homework and make the right connections is probably asking too much.

by sricki 2010-01-23 05:14AM | 0 recs
RE: I don't see this as a silver lining, Jerome.

So your solution is to restrict the political speech of people you disagree with because the American people are easily bamboozled? Yes, we should leave all the decision making to the "smart" people, the exact same people who have driven our economy into the ground and have created a power structure in Washington that is corrupt to the core.

Elitest beliefs like this are exactly what helped Martha Coakley lose.


by tpeichel 2010-01-24 05:00PM | 0 recs
So what you're saying is...

you agree with the SCOTUS decision?


by sricki 2010-01-24 06:40PM | 0 recs
RE: So what you're saying is...

Explain to me how it is fair for one group of citizens to form a non-profit and spend $1 Million to run political ads while another group of citizens is incorporated and are not allowed to spend money on political ads simply because they are a corporation?

Isn't the political speech of the second group just as valid as the political speech of the first?


by tpeichel 2010-01-25 12:12AM | 0 recs


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