Republican Members of Election Commission Block Disclosure of Campaign Donors

Monday, December 19, 2011
Caroline Hunter, 2012 Republican chair of the FEC
Big-money interests will not have to reveal their identity when spending on political advertisements during next year’s election, thanks to Republicans on the Federal Election Commission (FEC).
Democrats on the FEC pushed for new rules requiring full disclosure of funders for political ads. But the commission’s three GOP members voted against the plan, leaving a 3-3 tie and making it as good as dead.
Supporters of the new regulations argued that it is necessary to create more transparency since the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision allowed corporations, unions and other special interests to spend more on campaign ads.
For example, seven corporations during the 2010 elections spent $46.7 million in independent expenditures without revealing who they were.
Republicans voted against the change because, they insisted, the FEC doesn’t have the authority to alter disclosure rules.
-Noel Brinkerhoff
FEC Quashes New Disclosure Rules (by Robin Bravender, Politico)

Republican Senate Minority Blocks Corporate Campaign Finance Disclosure Bill (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov) 


Michael Lewis 9 years ago why is compulsory disclosure considered a good thing? nowadays, few people question the propriety of disclosure of campaign contributions. even conservatives and some libertarians have come to the conclusion that we must know who is behind the congressman, or who is funding a particular commercial. some americans believe that disclosure is essential to the proper operation of democracy. let's carry this premise to its logical conclusion. how many americans insist their "oughta be a law" requiring the media to divulge their "governmental sources?" imagine the trouble woodward and bernstein would've had if they'd had to disclose who "deep throat" was. how many people want government compelled disclosure of the names, addresses, vocations and employers of persons who "volunteer" for campaigns? after all, some people's time is quite valuable. or how many people believe we need to end the secret ballot? is it possible that some people voting for particular candidates because they expect to receive special favors from the government if the candidate wins? this could be done. after all, the secret ballot isn't required by the constitution. during the colonial period many government officials were elected by voice or a show of hands. this practice didn't die out entirely until the 1860s. and paper ballots didn't become popular until early in the 19th century. at first, voters made their own ballots and brought them to the polls. then political parties started printing ballots and the polling places became akin to an open auction. ticket distributors would fight with each other and the elderly were scared away. and that's why we have secret ballots today -- to protect the voters from reprisals and threats of violence. but shouldn't we also want to protect political donors from potential reprisals from candidates they didn't support, especially if the candidates the donors opposed are elected to office and have the power of government behind them? this seems obvious, but for some reason we've gone the opposite way on financial disclosure. why? anonymous political documents predate the settling of our country. the first was a document written in the 1570s under the fictitious name junius brutus. in english it's titled a defense of liberty against tyrants. according to historians, this document played a role in the destruction of the stuarts, then the royal family of great britain. and this document also influenced america's patriots. there are other pre-revolutionary examples, including the story of john peter zenger, whose case was a precedent for the 1st amendment freedom of the press and the concept of fully informed juries. another example was john dickson, a colonial patriot who anonymously protested the preponderance of taxes by parliament in his letters from a farmer in pennsylvania. add to this list, thomas paine's common sense, which was published with the byline "an englishman." but the best examples occurred during the debate over the constitution itself. publius, the pseudonym of james madison, alexander hamilton, and john jay, wrote the federalist papers. and let's give equal time to "brutus," "federal farmer," "centinel," and "cato" -- all of them took the anti-federalist position. (too bad they lost.) the list goes on, but the point is this: government-compelled disclosure is unconstitutional and un-american. does disclosure have its place? sure it does. any campaign can choose to report its donors to the public and most probably would because the voters might want it (although there was no disclosure at all before the 1970s); and politicians tend to give voters what they want, whenever they can. voluntary disclosure might even be more reliable because campaigns could hire companies like price waterhouse to provide validity to their disclosures. in a regulation-free atmosphere, campaigns most likely would compete with their opponents to provide the clearest disclosure. they might even subject their reports to independent audits. this would be in marked contrast to the obscure forms that are now filed with the federal election commission.

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