The innocuously-named DISCLOSE (Democracy is Strengthened by Casting Light on Spending in Elections) Act seems to have reached an impasse. It must stay that way, if not failing altogether. The bill is in no way innocuous, and it would not strengthen democracy.
Originally sponsored by Rep. Christopher Van Hollen (D-MD8) and cosponsored by 114 other Congressmen, the DISCLOSE Act is intended as a Democratic response to the Citizens United decision, which did not allow corporations to donate to campaigns from general treasuries (no matter what anyone claims), that was made several months ago. It would, among other things, ban campaign contributions and “electioneering communications” from TARP recipients, foreign corporations, government contractors overseeing at least $10 Million worth of services, and “persons who enter into negotiations for an oil or gas exploration, development, or production lease under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act”. The bill would also impose even more staggering restrictions on general campaign finance activity by all parties.
The main assumption behind these regulations, especially the ones pertaining to corporations, is that money somehow “buys” elections, which could not be further from the truth. As former FEC Chair Bradley Smith, University of Missouri economist Jeff Milyo, University of Maryland economist John R. Lott, and John Samples of the Cato Institute (just a sample) have pointed out time and again, campaign finance reform is simply ineffective. It does not make elections more competitive nor does it eliminate corruption, or the appearance thereof. Campaign finance reform is merely a Band-Aid approach to a much larger problem- apathy. This makes the Supreme Court decision that upheld campaign finance law in its early days even more laughable.
Besides, the idea that every American buys into “progressive” ideology and that if a “progressive” bill fails, it must mean corporations “bought” Congress is ridiculous! The Democrats and the Left are going to have face facts: most Americans are not as giddy for government intervention as they are. It in no way means that they are “bought.” To even suggest such a thing is just downright offensive, suggesting that anyone who disagrees with more government intervention on a certain issue (usually economic) is a stooge for corporations.
And why should disclosure be the utmost responsibility of those who campaign or contribute? Shouldn’t it be more so the responsibility of those who lead our country or wish to do so? Americans have a right to know what they are doing, first and foremost. Regular folks who just want their values and goals reflected in legislation and judicial decrees should not be subject to this intense scrutiny. Yes, transparency is great, but why does the funding of a particular cause matter so much? If the cause itself is legitimate, then who cares! If a candidate accepts money from a white supremacist group but is not himself one, that’s great! It means that the money went away from that disastrous group and will be used in a more productive manner. Money is a totally inanimate object, and what matters are the people who hold the money, not the mere fact that they hold a certain amount or gave it to someone else and/or their cause, at least when it comes to politics.
This long-held view on the American Left that money is everything, particularly in politics, has got to go. It has no basis in reality, and it is punishing average people. Campaign finance regulation belies the fact that correlation is not causation, and getting your message across is not cheap!