Readers: Bring influence peddlers out of the shadows
The U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling has stirred controversy over campaign finance since it was handed down by the Roberts court in 2010. The ruling effectively equated money with free speech at the level of the corporation, thus in part removing the shackles from corporations’ ability to influence elections directly.
While wealthy individuals and corporations certainly had avenues before the decision, the newly created Super PAC (“political action committee”) differed from its predecessor, the 527 PAC, in two ways:
- It now could advocate on behalf of a candidate directly rather than sticking to issues-based advocacy.
- It could do so all through the election season, not just up to 60 days before the election.
Hence the explosion of swing-state advertising dollars in 2012 — political ad spending swelled more than 40 percent from 2008 levels to almost $10 billion.
But Super PACs must disclose their donors. This is a key distinction between the Citizens United-enabled groups and “social welfare” promoting 501(c)(4) groups to which well-heeled anonymous influence peddlers have directed their attention – and dollars – this cycle. Such groups include Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS and the liberal Priorities USA.
Some readers offered alternatives to the current system. Robert McConnell, commenting on our Facebook page, said no one should be able to spend more to run for office than what the office pays in the first year. “That campaign should only run for six months before Election Day.”
Richard Holmes took that idea a step further: “I’d cut it to three months, but six will do.”
Others agreed with the notion that political spending equated to political speech, but insisted on donors being in the open. “Campaign donations are a form of free speech and should be unlimited,” wrote Bruce Kolinski, commenting at OverdriveOnline.com. “That said, the identity of every donor should be documented and disclosed.”
“K.C.” at Overdrive Online.com: The public has every right to know who is buying our elected officials and which officials are selling their integrity and the best interests of the voters. I advocate 100 percent disclosure or forfeiture equal to the amount of unidentified funds.
Bruce Kolinski: Large special-interest bundlers should provide an attached listing of every individual contribution included in their bundle. Current bundling hides enormous amounts of illegal foreign and special interest donations. We no longer have free elections in the United States.
Keith at OverdriveOnline.com: It is time for the American people to wake up, take back our Constitution and kick out these corrupt ignoramuses and put the federal government back in the box where it was originally intended to be when our Founding Fathers gave us the Republic!
M. Rick Richards: Between Obama and Romney, they spent over a billion dollars combined! It’s estimated that all of the different races spent a combined $6 billion or more. That is insane … I hope with the upcoming changes to the Supreme Court, they will change the laws back to the transparency we had before.
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