Imagine if each of the vicious attack ads staining the presidential campaign had to name the five biggest donors paying for the propaganda, and end with an “I approved this ad” statement from the attack group’s chief operative.
This thin ray of sunlight is at the heart of a new House proposal to repair some of the damage done to American democracy by the Supreme Court decision allowing campaigns to be flooded with unlimited, and largely cloaked, corporate, union and other special-interest contributions.
The Disclose 2012 Act, introduced by Representative Chris Van Hollen, Democrat of Maryland, is a tighter version of the 2010 bill that was blocked in the Senate by a Republican filibuster. The new measure would require disclosure of donor names within 24 hours for contributions of $10,000 or more — making it hard for “super PACs” and other money vehicles to take advantage of loose reporting deadlines. Union and corporate leaders and others would have to own up to sponsorship in their ads, while informing shareholders and union members how their money is spent politically. Lobbying groups like the National Rifle Association and the Sierra Club would also have to disclose their campaign spending more clearly.
This is desperately needed legislation, yet so far no Republicans have come forward to support or sponsor it. Republicans, who are reaping the lion’s share of the new unlimited donations, used to support disclosure laws. In 2000, the Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, even said, “Republicans are in favor of disclosure.” Not anymore. Polls show the public supports disclosure as a way to fight political corruption. Any candidate who resists this common-sense bill deserves to be defeated.