Who's footing the bills?

By Baker City Herald Editorial Board June 22, 2012 09:16 am

We weren’t especially bothered when the U.S. Supreme Court, in its Citizens United decision in 2010, allowed corporations and labor unions to spend as much money as they want on political advertising.

Our equanimity was based on two main factors.

First, the budgets for high-level campaigns were measured in the hundreds of millions of dollars before Citizens United. It’s not as if the high court’s ruling suddenly changed the American electoral system from a purely grassroots undertaking into a corporate-controlled echo chamber.

Second, even the justices among the 5-4 majority in Citizens United — and in particular Anthony Kennedy — emphasized that they intended that voters would be able to track which corporation or union was funneling money into campaigning.

So much for intentions.

In the 2 years since Citizens United, it’s become clear that creative accounting can in some cases obscure from voters’ eyes the dollars behind the messages that bombard us with each election cycle.

(And you can imagine the barrage which awaits us as Nov. 6 nears.)

A bill languishing in Washington, D.C., aims to remove that veil from voters’ view. The DISCLOSE Act  (the acronym comes from “Democracy Is Strengthened by Casting Light On Spending in Elections”) would require organizations, including corporations, super PACs, unions and nonprofits (not including 501(c)(3) charitable groups) to disclose contributions of more than $10,000. They also would have to reveal the names of individuals who donate money to them for political purposes.

Some Republicans in the Senate, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, oppose DISCLOSE.

We wonder why these senators want to keep voters in the dark about who’s buying all those ads.